A draft law to toughen control over electronic media, including in the Internet, as part of efforts against extremism has been withdrawn from Russia's lower house of parliament for further discussion.
The Russian Vedomosti daily suggested that it
may have been pulled at the request of the government.
In November, during his state-of-the-nation address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged a commitment to free speech, saying that, No government officials will be able to hamper
discussions in the Internet.
The bill proposed by the dominant, Kremlin-backed United Russia party allows the closure of websites for publishing for a second time materials promoting extremism. It would also order Internet providers to
block access to the website.
Artyom Tiunov was recently detained by Russian police on suspicion of theft and subjected to 14 hours of brutal interrogation. The police hoped he would confess to a crime he didn't commit. They hoped he would provide them with an open-and-shut case;
every police department has to present a certain number of these in a given a period or be subjected to severe questioning over their low clear-up rate. This pressure has become a major source of the abuse and corruption which everybody, including the
police themselves, hopes to see off in the reforms scheduled for 2012-13..
But instead the police had to release Tiunov after being confronted with CCTV footage of him exiting a restaurant at the time of the alleged crime. Tiunov described the
whole ordeal on his Livejournal.com page – a blogging platform massively popular in Russia ,hosting over 1.5 million Russian-language blogs – and the post, titled Wrong place, wrong time , attracted more than 1,000 comments in just two days.
One day there will be thousands of volunteers out there patrolling the Russian Internet. That at least is the dream of a new organization, the League of Internet Safety.
The league is formed by the three major mobile providers: Mobile TeleSystems,
VimpelCom, and Megafon, and the state telecom company Rostelecom. It also features the head of Mail.ru, Dmitry Grishin, on its board of trustees, which is headed by the Communications and Press Minister Igor Shchyogolev.
Shchyogolev says thousands
of volunteers, or simple people, would monitor the Internet and tell the league when they see dangerous content. The league will also provide grants to develop filters to protect children from seeing adult material on the web too.
The league's stated purpose in the next year will be to fight against child pornography, organizers say. But they inevitably talked about expanding that mission to policing other negative content.
Pavel Astakhov, the children's ombudsman
who is also a trustee of the league, called on Internet users themselves to refrain from putting anything negative, extremist, disgusting or dangerous online.
Bloggers, for their part, reacted skeptically to the new organization.
Anton Nossik, one of the country's most famous bloggers and Internet businessman, pointed out that China, which has far more control of the web than Russia, had its own cyber-militia to screen websites to report to the authorities.
Another blogger Maxim Kononenko slammed the idea, claiming that organizations like the Friendly Internet had limited success. He suggested that the League of Internet Safety would end up being sold as a business in the future.
suggested that the league was just another way for the state to abuse the Internet for its own purposes. In recent years, the security services and Kremlin-backed youth organizations have been active on the Internet, harassing those they view as
A new Russian police law has come into force that gives officers the right to take down web sites without a court order but industry representatives said police can already do that under existing legislation.
The police's right is mentioned in a
report on intellectual piracy submitted by the Economic Development Ministry to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is preparing its own annual piracy survey
The ministry report, first leaked on the Marker.ru news web site,
lists the police's right to shut down web sites among measures intended to help crack down on copyright infringement.
The police law provides officers with an instrument to terminate the activity of Internet resources that infringe on Russian
and international copyright law, which was previously possible only with the judicial order or during investigation, the ministry said in the report.
The actual police legislation does not mention web sites, but contains vague wording that
authorizes the police to order any organization to change or stop operations that contribute to criminal activity in any way.
Western media outlets can't stop glorifying the Internet and social networks as the new tools for empowering grassroots resistance movements. This point is not lost on the notoriously suspicious Kremlin, which is convinced that the
West has found a new means for advancing its interests after the color revolutions of the mid-2000s. Since then, the argument goes, the opposition is much more capable of orchestrating a regime change thanks to Twitter technology.
What's more, even weak or poorly organized opposition forces are capable of effecting regime change if their arsenals include Twitter and Facebook. As President Dmitry Medvedev said last week in Vladikavkaz: Let's face the truth.
They have been preparing such a scenario for us, and now they will try even harder to implement it.
Medvedev's reaction shows that the Kremlin is taking the threat very seriously. The question now is how the
authorities will respond if similar protests erupt in Russia. The siloviki and the presidential administration are the two agencies capable of responding to any Internet-based threat of revolution.
The Federal Security
Service and Interior Ministry have demonstrated several times in recent years which approach they believe is best, registering every single Internet user to identify extremists and bring criminal charges against them. That is precisely how the
they reacted to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. They proposed Criminal Code amendments that would have made the owners of online social networks responsible for all content posted on their sites. Apparently, the idea is not to incriminate the
owners of Facebook and Vkontakte of extremism personally, but to force them to pass responsibility on to individual users by requiring each to sign a contract that includes their passport information.
presidential administration has traditionally preferred more adventurous methods. A couple years ago, the Kremlin opened its own school of bloggers, and although the school was supposedly later shut down, the same initiative was taken up by the
regions. This project was organized by the Foundation for Effective Policy, a think tank run by Kremlin-friendly political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky. The group is charged with a single overriding task: to resist the subversive activity of the West.
As mass unrest continues to shake authoritarian states in North Africa and the Middle East, the siloviki are pushing for the registration of social network users and waiting to pounce on anyone posting an extremist
message and the Kremlin is funding pro-government bloggers. This will inevitably be interpreted by analysts as a new political battle between the government against the opposition.
Meanwhile, Russia's 40 million
Internet users have shown remarkably little interest in this political struggle. This means that the Kremlin's battle to prevent an imminent Facebook revolution will remain largely virtual.
Russia's most popular search engine was embroiled in a scandal when internet users spotted it blocking images of opposition protests.
Bloggers complained that they typed Russian-language opposition slogans into the Yandex search engine and found
that it showed only unrelated images while a rival search engine, Google, came up with images of anti-government protests.
In a post on Friday, blogger Igor Bigdan cited the slogan, It's time to change places, which opposition activists
used on a giant banner showing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and jailed oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Google.ru search brought up dozens of images of the giant banner, which activists hung on a bridge opposite the Kremlin last month, while Yandex
showed unrelated images including cars and a pigeon.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a law supposedly protecting children from 'hazardous' information, the Kremlin reports.
The law sets a censorship level for information for children under 18 and classification of information products. This
also bans schoolbooks with hazardous information.
Certain advertisements will be banned from education centers, sanatoriums and sports organizations for children within a radius of 100 meters.
Violation of the law will be punishable by
2,000-3,000 rubles for citizens, 5,000-10,000 for officials and businesses, 20,000-50,000 for legal bodies or a 90-day administrative suspension for business.
Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has called for limits to be imposed on the Internet to prevent young people from being influenced by extremism on the web.
The remarks fueled fears among bloggers, journalists, and rights activists
that Russia may seek to adopt China-style restrictions on the Internet.
Nurgaliyev warned that young people are no longer united by the love songs of old and that they are prone to the malicious sway of an estimated 7,500 extremist websites
operating on Russian territory:
Nurgaliyev later said the time has long been ripe to carry out monitoring in the country to find out what they are listening to, what they are reading, [and] what they are watching.
Nurgaliyev was not
specific about what kind of controls he believes are needed. But he is, nevertheless, the highest-ranking official to call for restrictions on the Internet.
Security services expert Andrei Soldatov Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia's security
services and head of the Agentura think tank, said Nurgaliyev's comments partially reflect a desire by law-enforcement bodies to stave off unrest ahead of elections to the State Duma in December and for the presidency in March 2012.
added that the Interior Ministry is also eager to win additional budget money to expand the online portion of a four-year-old campaign to combat extremism, which allows it to take preventive measures against those who may pose a threat: If we
are talking about preventive measures, then we need to understand what people or person might in the future commit a crime, write something or publish something . For that you need to monitor what is going on the Internet.
the ministry would like to deploy special, so-called anti-extremism profiling systems such as one currently under construction by Roskomnadzor, an agency in the Ministry of Communications, that will monitor online media and new media in Russia.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military cooperation body consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, has announced that it will start controlling social networks to avoid
the unrest seen in the Arab world.
From The Moscow News:
Sources in CSTO said:
Experts of the highest level are already working on this. The thing is, in the modern environment there is an infrastructure
that allows for creating destabilizing situations in any, even the most trouble-free country. Mobile connections, social networks, even NGOs when needed, could be used for these aims.
After the Arab Spring and the much-discussed role
of the Internet and social media, we'll see more and more of this Internet panic and knee-jerkism (from suggestions in Britain to shut down social networks after the London riots to this kind of blame-the-Internet-bots-rather-than-the-tyrants approach).
As countries like Belarus, Iran and Myanmar digest the lessons of the Arab Spring, their demand for monitoring technology will grow.
Reporters Without Borders condemns plans by Roskomnadzor, Russia's federal supervisory agency for communications, information technology and mass media, to use search software to track down extremist content on the Internet. The agency is
currently testing the software and intends to start using it in December.
When Roskomnadzor's software, using very vague criteria, decides that a website has extremist content, the site will be given three days to remove it. If it fails to
comply, it will be sent two further warnings and then it will be closed down.
In a separate development, the justice ministry has announced a contest for the design of software that it could use for scanning and monitoring Internet content. It
would scan for anything posted online about the Russian government and judicial system, and any European Union statement concerning Russia.
Our main concern is Roskomnadzor's very broad definition of 'extremist' content and the arbitrary and
disproportionate nature of the sanctions, that can include website closure, Reporters Without Borders said: The creation of this software will establish a generalized system of surveillance of the Russian Internet that could eventually lead to the
withdrawal of all content that troubles the authorities. It will inevitably restrict the free flow of information.
Russia's industry organisation, League of Internet Security, has proposed creating a blacklist of websites containing child pornography and other prohibited information and oblige internet providers to block such sites.
proposal followed its announcement that it had broken up an international ring of 130 alleged pedophiles circulating material via the internet.
Denis Davydov, the League's executive director, said the proposed bills also provide for tracking down
extremist materials on the web, raising fears among the Russian media and internet community that they could make it easier for the authorities to crack down on dissent under the guise of fighting child abuse.
The League, whose board of
trustees is headed by Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev, proposed creating a special public organization involving experts, representatives of internet providers and search engines to monitor the web in search of suspicious content.
with the amendments, which have yet to be submitted to parliament, websites containing child porn are to be blocked as soon as they are identified, while those containing other prohibited information can only be closed following a court ruling.
Another proposal regarding internet security has been put forward by senior Interior Ministry official Alexei Moshkov, who said anonymous accounts should be outlawed on social networks and online forums to prevent internet fraud, blackmailing and
The Russian Interior Ministry has announced plans to open specialized centers to monitor online media for extremism, RIA Novosti reports.
Internal Affairs Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said that the new centers would track both text and
audio-visual materials. According to Nurgaliyev, the decision was made by an interagency commission and will be implemented throughout the country by regional presidential plenipotentiaries.
Elaborating on the number of anti-extremism cases that
the agency has undertaken, the minister said: Two hundred and nineteen cases of investigation and analysis were initiated in 2011. Investigative agencies filed 67 charges and issued 130 cautions, warnings and advisories. In 47 cases, access to
particular internet resources was blocked and their activities were halted.
The cyber crime department of Russia's Interior Ministry says it intends to get tough on the country's ISPs when their customers share copyrighted or otherwise illegal material. Authorities say they are currently carrying out nationwide checks on ISPs'
local networks and could bring prosecutions as early as next month.
Having largely failed in their earlier bids to aggressively target individual file-sharers, in recent times copyright holders and authorities have been forced to look elsewhere
for someone to blame.
Worldwide lobbying efforts have borne fruit and now it's almost routine to see ISPs dragged into the debate on illegal file-sharing and treated as if they are the reason the problem exists, or at the very least that it's
their place to take responsibility.
Russian parliament has passed a law establishing a central register of banned websites. The new laws are ostensibly designed for child protection, but the real aim is to take control over the country's burgeoning social networks See
article from indexoncensorship.org
According to Russia Today, nutters from the Orthodox Church are angry at the Facebook's decision to launch same-sex marriage icons, calling them gay propaganda .
The nutters apparently claim that the icons could make young people tempted to
explore homosexuality. In fact, the church in the city of Saratov, southern Russia, asked issued an ultimatum requesting that the social network stop flirting with Sodomites .
The nutters have organised a petition to get Facebook banned in
the country. Vladimir Roslyakovsky, leader of the Orthodox public organization, spewed:
We demand only one thing: Facebook should be blocked in the entire country because it openly popularizes homosexuality among
The US goal is that Russians stop having children. [They want] the great nation to turn into likeness of Sodom and Gomorrah, Roslyakovsky said. But I am confident that Russian laws and reasonable citizens will be able to
protect their children from a fierce attack of sodomites.
Wikipedia shut down its Russian-language page on Tuesday to protest at a bill that would boost government control over the internet amid a crackdown on those opposed to the regime of President Vladimir Putin.
The page was replaces with a Wikipedia
logo crossed out with a stark black rectangle, and the words imagine a world without free knowledge written in block letters underneath.
The bill, due to be considered by parliament on Wednesday, will lead to the creation of a Russian
analogue to China's Great Firewall the website warned in a statement. The bill calls for the creation of a federal website banned list and would have to be signed into law by Putin before coming into effect. Internet providers and site owners would
be forced to shut down websites put on the list.
The bill's backers, from Putin's United Russia party, claim that the amendments to the country's information legislation would target child pornography and sites that promote drug use and teen
suicide. But critics, including Russian-language Wikipedia, warned that it could be used to boost government censorship over the internet.
Russia's parliament has voted to approve a law that would give the government the power to force certain internet sites offline without court intervention.
The bill still needs to be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. It must also
be approved by Russia's upper house, the Federation Council of Russia.
The Moscow Times reported that deputies amended the law to removed a reference to harmful information , replacing it with a limited list of forbidden content. The
blacklist is now restricted to sites offering details about how to commit suicide, material that might encourage users to take drugs, images featuring the sexual abuse of children, and pages that solicit children for pornography. If the websites
themselves cannot be shut down, internet service providers and web hosting companies can be forced to block access to the offending material.
But critics have complained that once internet providers have been forced to start blocking certain
sites, the government may seek court orders to expand the blacklist.
Despite criticisms and Wikipedia protests, Russia's upper house of parliament passed a controversial draft law today that would give the government far-reaching power over the internet in the country.
The New York Times reports that the Federation
Council of Russia passed the legislation 147 to 0, with three members abstaining, and matches the version that passed the lower house, the State Duma, earlier this month.
Strident objections from the Russian-language version of Wikipedia, the
country's Yandex search engine, and the Russian social networking site Vkontakte may have been responsible for minor changes to the language used in the law, which saw the blanket term harmful information swapped for the more specific types of
dangerous content it now specifies.
The bill will now be making its way to the desk of President Vladimir Putin, and once signed will become law.
The Russian law supposedly aimed at the protection of children from harmful web content has come into effect. From now on, authorities will be able to force certain web pages offline, without requiring a court order.
It primarily refers to
internet sources containing child pornography, suicide instructions or those promoting drugs. In cases with other kinds of illegal information, the decision on whether or not to ban a website will be made by a court.
register of websites with information that is banned to be distributed in Russia went online on Thursday. The blacklist is operated by the country's media and communications
watchdog, Roskomnadzor. Ordinary internet users will be able to check whether a particular internet site has been banned but cannot see the list.
Now anyone (anonymously) can use the source to report on a website they believe to be illegal or
suspicious, and the watchdog is obliged to respond (but not necessarily block the website).
Under the law, once a website with censorable content is discovered, Roskomnadzor has to inform the owner of the source and their hosting-provider and
demand that the prohibited information is removed. In case the source is still available 48 hours after such a request is sent, access to it will be blocked by Russian ISPs.
Russia says it has received 5,000 reports of child pornography on the Internet in the first 24 hours under a new internet censorship law.
Officials at Roskomnadzor, the regulators and censors for mass media and communications, said that they
were surprised by the large number of complaints. But they added that nearly 96% of the warnings proved to be unfounded.
A spokesman said 10 Internet service providers had already been asked to contact the owners of offending sites and remove the
content within 48 hours.
Activists say the new law may be used as a pretext for shutting down websites seen as critical of the government.
180 websites have already been blocked under Russia's repressive new Internet law that's been in effect for the past two weeks.
The blacklist compiled by the Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications (Roskomnadzor) is secret,
but authorities unconvincingly claim that its purpose is to eliminate extreme forms of offensive content.
In its first two weeks of application, the law has produced a few high-profile casualties that critics say point to the fundamental
weaknesses of a system that allows authorities to summarily shut down content without any need for a court order or reference to any supervisory body. The definitions of offensive content are also murky, critics say, and could easily include
political conversation that looks extremist to a policeman's eyes and other forms of commentary that might be simply misunderstood.
That criticism seems to have already been borne out. This week alone Roskomnadzor has closed down, among
others, a Wikipedia-like encyclopedia of satire, which contained an article about how to make hemp (often associated with marijuana) soup; an online library, which included a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, a 1970's American-authored manual for
radicals; and a popular torrent-tracking website, on which users had apparently exchanged a file called The Encyclopedia of Suicide.
The agency allowed those websites to reopen after the supposedly offensive content was removed. But
experts say those examples were hugely popular websites whose closure attracted immediate public attention and a storm of complaints; restoring service may not prove so easy for smaller victims of the law.
The Russian government which has decided that gambling whether online or off is not a good thing and prohibits the activity in all but brick and mortar casinos in zones at the very edges of Russia’s domain. Since 2009 the Russian authorities have
closed and dismantled thousands of parlour casinos and underground poker rooms.
A decree that online gambling is a prohibited activity and the responsibility is up to the ISPs to block access to gambling sites now has the Supreme Court backing it
A recent lower court ruling exonerated ISP company executives from an area close to the Estonian border who refused to comply with the order to deny service to gambling patrons.
The Supreme Court however said the ISP must block the
gambling site that is now on the government blacklist of over 1500 supposedly illegal web sites. The Supreme Court also extended its definition of bad, to include the dissemination of information related to the implementation of activities of
gambling, which makes it necessary to disconnect even sites that contain only information about gambling portals.
A test-case brought by Google to challenge Russian internet censorship has failed.
The case related to a video clip uploaded to Google-owned YouTube, which portrayed, using a blunt razorblade and fake blood, a woman cutting her wrists.
Russian regulators demanded the clip be removed, saying it provided information about how to kill oneself. Google complied, but filed an appeal, which has now been rejected by a Moscow court.
Google argued the clip was intended as entertainment rather than to promote actual suicide. In response to the ruling, Google said:
We do not believe the goal of the law was to limit access to videos that are
clearly intended to entertain viewers.
The clip, entitled Video lesson on how to cut your veins , was deemed by Russian regulators to break strict new rules on web content thought to be harmful to children.
Perhaps it is
relevant to note that the UK film censors of the BBFC used to cut sight of a particularly effective method of cutting veins when it was felt that not many people knew of this. The policy has now been adapted after the technique became more well known.
Russia's internet censors, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications has banned Japanese anime from the genre hentai . Censors claim it to be child pornography.
The censor department was not sure whether to define hentai as
child pornography and so consulted external analysts. One such analyst claimed that these animated films exploit interest to sex often in perverted form , as well as there is no storyline and any cultural or historical value . Also
according to experts all characters are presented as minors, who participate in pornographic scenes .
The internet censor will now demand that websites and web hosting companies remove all such content.
Hentai is a genre of the
Japanese animation (anime) containing erotic or pornographic scenes. Characters are typically drawn with few features and rather indeterminate ages.
The head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has personally ordered preparations for laws that would block the Tor anonymity network from the entire Russian sector of the Internet.
FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov announced the initiative at a
recent session of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, saying that his agency would develop the legislative drafts together with other Russian law enforcement and security bodies.
The FSB official said that the agency initiated the move as
internet anonymizers were used by weapon traffickers, drug dealers and credit card fraudsters.
At the same time, an unnamed source told the newspaper that not all Russian security specialists welcomed the idea, as various criminals often
overestimated the protection provided by the Undernet, acted recklessly and allowed themselves to get caught. The blocking would require the development of some new methods of search and control in new anonymity networks that would appear soon after the
Russian audience loses access to existing ones, the source noted.
Lower House MP Ilya Kostunov noted that the problem was important but doubted that it was technically executable. As far as I know, it is impossible to block Tor, Kostunov
said. The network re-tunes quickly, switches to different hubs and starts working again.
The Tor Project administration also said that the blocking of the system was extremely difficult, adding that even Tor's own specialists could not
control the information flowing through their servers or identify users.
Russia is now proposing even tougher measures against those who facilitate piracy. A new bill has been approved which allows for fines of up to $29,853 for service providers, search engines and users who fail to comply with a blacklist of sites already
subjected to copyright complaints.
Just over a month has passed since Russia introduced new legislation aimed at cracking down on online piracy. The law, which has become known as Russia's SOPA, takes a tough line with those offering or linking to
illicit content online.
Copyright complaints against a site or service can lead to that domain being added to a national blocklist, if their operators fail to render the illicit content inaccessible within a few days.
Just 34 days after the
initial law was implemented, the government is pushing through further punitive measures for pirates and those deemed to be assisting them.
According to Vesti.ru a parliamentary committee has approved a new bill which will allow a range of
Internet entities to be fined if they fail to block content and sites as dictated by the country's blacklist. The bill, which was approved in the first of three planned readings in the State Duma, introduces fines of up to one million rubles ($29,853) to
be levied against search engines, web hosts, ISPs, and even regular web users. The heaviest of fines will be reserved for companies failing to comply with the requirements of the blacklist, while punishments for regular users are expected to sit around
5,000 rubles ($149).
The Government of Russia has signaled it is about to take the broadest anti-piracy action seen anywhere on the planet. Russia's communications minister says the country will order local Internet service providers to completely censor around 160
identified pirate sites.
Just over two months ago Russia made some of its strongest steps yet against online piracy by introducing a formal system for rightsholders to have unauthorized content, or links to content, taken offline.
system, dubbed Russia's SOPA, forces sites to comply with copyright complaints in a swift manner or face their domains being added to a national blacklist. Being added to that register is a serious business, since all local ISPs are expected to blacklist
corresponding IP addresses so that local Internet users cannot gain access.
But according to comments coming out of the Government yesterday, Russia appears to be taking its anti-piracy initiative to the next level and beyond, fully living up to
its SOPA billing. Ministry of Communications deputy head Alexei Volin said that Russia now intends to compartmentalize sites that are dedicated to piracy. They will be treated completely differently from other sites. He said:
There are a conscientious and diligent owners of websites, to which some people upload illegal or dangerous content. When it comes to this sort of thing, we order blocks of URLs and individual pages.
there are some specialized and entirely pornographic sites that are entirely blocked by IP address. The same principle will be observed in respect of torrents and sites engaged in outright piracy. We will not block them for some particular things, we'll
close them entirely by IP address.
Schoolchildren in the city of Krasnodar will not be able to watch a puppet theater performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute this year. Censors at the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service put an 18+ label on the show. The reason: In the
opera, one of the heroines wants to kill herself.
Age restrictions on access to information, including Internet sites, have been in place for more than a year in the country. But until now they had not been applied to classical works of literature and
art. Soon this might change. On Dec. 4, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service presented a project called The Concept of Informational Security for Children. Among its stipulations is a ban that would keep minors from watching on the Internet
classical works of art that include images of the nude body in any form, and anything that might be considered erotic.
Censorship would also extend to works of literature in which the characters use alcohol and drugs or commit crimes, or in works
where there are statements destructive to the social institution of the family.
A more radical proposal in the project forbids the depiction or description of mishaps, accidents or catastrophes in television and radio news shows
before 9 p.m. If this becomes law, daytime news shows will revert to the Soviet standard of all day, all good news.
The State Duma is considering a draft law that would allow more sites to be blocked without a court order. This would be
applied to Internet sites calling for mass unrest or participation in mass events conducted in violation of the established order. In normal language, this means that announcements of unsanctioned opposition rallies on social networks would be
The Russian internet censor is threatening to block entire website hosts if they refuse to take down content that Russia does not like. US-based CloudFlare, a hosting company servicing at least 750,000 sites is on the blacklist.
Roskomnadzor is the
body responsible for maintaining Russia's Internet blacklist. Sites can be placed on the blacklist for any number of reasons, from promoting drugs, crime and suicide, to failing to respond to rightholders complaints under the anti-piracy legislation
passed earlier this year.
There are already tens of thousands of sites (including file-sharing portals) already on the list but if Roskomnadzor carries through on its latest threats the situation could quickly accelerate out of all proportion.
The problem, the censor says, is being caused by foreign hosts and service providers, mainly in the United States, who are refusing to disable access to a range of content that is illegal in Russia. Sites apparently hop around from
location to location, but within the same provider, testing Roskomnadzor's patience. Spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky Said:
We have serious questions about a particular group of providers offering such sites hosting
services. We ask them to block content, but they refuse to cooperate with us.
As a result Roskomnadzor says it is considering blocking a range of overseas hosts for failing to comply. They include Ukrainian host Vedekon.ua, Endurance
International (US), Hostnoc (US), DataShack (US), Infinitie (US), and the torrent and file-sharing friendly OVH (France) and Voxility (Romania).
Rounding off the Russian list is CloudFlare , a US-based CDN company that assists many hundreds of
thousands of sites worldwide. Back in March, CloudFlare experienced technical difficulties which resulted in 750,000 sites being taken offline. If the Russian's block CloudFlare, similar numbers of sites would be rendered locally inaccessible.
Another Internet crackdown appears to be looming in Russia, where the Duma is reviewing three new pieces of proposed anti-terror legislation that could place hefty restrictions on the activities of website operators and civil society organizers.
Two of the bills address government surveillance powers---one would create new requirements obliging website operators to report on the every move of their users, while another addresses penalties for terror-related crimes. The third would set new
restrictions for individuals and organizations accepting anonymous donations through online services like PayPal, a measure that could have an especially strong impact on small civil society groups.
The first of the three bills creates new
requirements for mandatory archives and notifications, granting the federal government wide jurisdiction. The most concerning article of the bill stipulates that individuals or legal entities who [organize] the dissemination of information and
(or) the exchange of information between Internet users are obligated to store all information about the arrival, transmission, delivery, and processing of voice data, written text, images, sounds, or other kinds of action that occur when using their
website. At all times, data archives must include the most recent six months of activity.
It appears that this obligation would apply to the owners and operators of websites and services ranging from multinational services like Facebook to small
community blogs and discussion platforms.
Website organizers must also inform Russian security services when users first begin using their sites, and whenever users exchange information. Taken literally, this requirement could
create a nearly impossible task for administrators of blogs, social media sites, and other discussion platforms with large quantities of users.
The second bill would broaden police powers and raise penalties for terrorism.
third piece of legislation would place new limits on online money transfers. This draft law would raise limits on anonymous online financial transactions and ban all international online financial transactions, where the electronic money operator (e.g.,
PayPal, Yandex.Dengi, WebMoney) does not know the client's legal identity. The legislation also raises operating costs for NGOs, requiring them to report on every three thousand dollars spent in foreign donations. (Currently, NGOs must report on every
six thousand such dollars.)
Russia's government has escalated its use of its Internet censorship law to target news sites, bloggers, and politicians under the slimmest excuse of preventing unauthorized protests and enforcing house arrest regulations. The country's ISPs have
received orders to block a list of major news sites and system administrators have been instructed to take the servers providing the content offline.
The banned sites include the online newspaper Grani, Garry Kasparov's opposition information site
kasparov.ru, the livejournal of popular anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, and even the web pages of Ekho Moskvy, a radio station which is majority owned by the state-run Gazprom, and whose independent editor was ousted last month and replaced with
a more government-friendly director.
The list of newly prohibited sites was published earlier today by Russia's Prosecutor General, which announced that the news sites had been entered into the single register of banned information after
calls for participation in unauthorized rallies. Navalny's livejournal was apparently added to the register in response to the conditions of his current house arrest , which include a personal prohibition on accessing the Internet.
profoundly opposed to government censorship of the Internet, which violates its citizens right to freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are especially concerned about the censorship of
independent news and opposing political views, which are essential to a thriving civil society. Russians who wish to circumvent government censorship can continue to read these websites via the Tor Browser, which they can install using the Tor Browser
A new Russian law will go into effect on August 1, 2014, that requires a wide array of websites and online services to register formally with the government. Sites and applications that allow Internet users to communicate will be obligated to store the
past six months of user-data on servers located inside Russia, making the information available to Russian law enforcement. Several state agencies are now involved in drafting bylaws that will determine how officials actually enforce the new Internet
Four draft bylaws are making headlines in Russian newspapers. The proposed bylaws contain three main points:
Websites and applications will be required to archive virtually every kind of information about their users (logins, email addresses, contacts lists, all changes to a user's account, a list of all accessed DNS servers, and so on).
The actual content of the messages exchanged online, however, does not need to be archived.
Sites and services that exist for personal, family, or household needs are exempt from the law, though this exception does not
apply to the exchange of information of a public-political nature or to conversations where the number of participants is indefinite . Online commerce, scientific and educational activity, and things like job searches are also exempt.
Finally, the Russian Federal Security Service (the equivalent of the American FBI) will offer websites and applications the opportunity to opt out of the data-archiving requirement, if they grant the government full, real-time access
to their data. In this case, Russian police would obtain unrestricted access to Internet users' data, which officials would themselves archive.
It is this third point that could prove the most curious in the enforcement of Russia's new Internet regulations. How many websites and applications will decide to open entirely to the government, to spare themselves the
trouble and expense of selecting and storing user-data according to the new laws? Is the Kremlin betting that it can gain full access to the RuNet by offering this loophole? Or is this a ploy by federal police to bleed the state budget of more funding,
creating the need for subsidies to be plundered?
The number of restrictions placed on the Internet in Russia since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 is daunting. What's been outlawed and what's still legal on the RuNet? To help people keep track of what's what in Russian cyberspace,
RuNet Echo has compiled a chronological list of the most important laws to hit the Russian Internet in the past two years. For each law, readers can find links to the legislation's full text in Russian, as well as RuNet Echo articles in English
describing the details and significance of each initiative.
The law that launched a thousand ships: creating the RuNet Blacklist
Signed by Putin on July 28, 2012. This is law that launched the crackdown on Internet
freedom in Russia. The law created a government registry for websites found to contain materials deemed harmful to children. Illegal content under this law includes child pornography, drug paraphernalia, and instructions about self-harm. Without a court
order, Russia's federal communications agency is able to add to the registry any website hosting such material. Later laws have allowed police to blacklist other kinds of websites, too, using the infrastructure created here.
Signed on July 2, 2013. Often referred to as the "Russian SOPA," this is an anti-piracy
law that allows courts to block websites accused of hosting stolen intellectual property. What ultimately reached Putin's desk in July 2013 was a somewhat watered-down version of the initial legislation, which called for applying the law to a wide
variety of content. (The law's final text addressed only stolen films.) The Russian Parliament is poised , however, to pass a new bill later this year that
will expand the law's application to music, e-books, and software.
Signed on December 28, 2013. This law gives
Russia's Attorney General the extrajudicial power to add to the RuNet Blacklist any websites containing "calls to riots, extremist activities, the incitement of ethnic and (or) sectarian hatred, terrorist activity, or participation in public events
held in breach of appropriate procedures." In March 2014, police used this law to block four major opposition
websites, including three news portals and the blog of Russia's most prominent anti-corruption activist. Since the law passed last year, the Attorney General as blacklisted 191
different Web addresses .
The law that got away: policing news-aggregators
In April 2014, Putin revealed
at a public forum that the government was investigating the legal status of online news-aggregation services like Yandex News. In May, a Duma deputy asked the Russian Attorney General to issue a ruling about the status of Yandex News, to determine if
the state should regulate such websites as mass media outlets. In early June, Yandex's CEO joined Putin onstage at a forum on Internet entrepreneurship, where the two
chatted amicably about the RuNet's economic potential. On July 1, Russian newspapers
reported that the Attorney General does not consider news-aggregation to qualify as mass media, aborting the Duma's effort to impose new regulations on Yandex News and
The anti-terrorism package, aka "the Bloggers Law"
Signed on May 5, 2014. This package consisted of three separate
laws, hurried through the Duma after terrorist attacks in the city of Volgograd in December 2013. Two of the laws added new Internet regulations, creating restrictions on
electronic money transfers (banning all foreign financial transactions involving anonymous parties) and extensive requirements
for governing the activity of "popular bloggers" and the data retention of certain websites and online networks. The "law on bloggers" takes effect on August 1, 2014, creating a new registry especially for citizen-media outlets with
daily audiences bigger than three thousand people. Bloggers added to this registry face a series of new regulations (against obscene language, libel, and so on), increasing their vulnerability to criminal prosecution.
Signed on June 28, 2014. This law allows the government to hand down five-year prison
sentences to people who re-disseminate extremist materials online. The "law against retweets" codifies an existing police practice, but making the policy official could increase the number of such prosecutions in the future.
Passed by the Duma on July 4, 2014. This legislation still awaits the Senate's approval and Putin's
signature. The law, if passed, will require all websites that store user data about Russian citizens to house that data on servers located inside Russia. According to the legislation's logic, websites will be barred from storing Russian users' personal
data anywhere outside of Russia (though the law's actual text is somewhat vague on this point, perhaps because of jurisdictional limitations on what Russia can mandate outside its borders). The law applies to a wide variety of websites, ranging from
e-booking services to Facebook, affecting any website or online service operating on the concept of "users."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law to strengthen the country's ability to censor the internet.
Starting in 2016, the new law will require Internet operators to store Russian user data in centres within the country. Once data is
stored on Russian servers, it will be subjected to Russian laws, putting it at risk for censorship. Companies that don't comply will be blocked from the web.
The move seems particularly targeted at US social networking sites like Twitter and
Facebook, that are based in the US and have previously proved elusive of Russian internet censors.
The new law came as part of a flurry of new legislation , including a law prohibiting protests. Some of the Internet operators targeted have
warned that two years is not enough time to comply with the law, according to a Agence France-Presse report.
Internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told the Moscow Times of the data storage law:
goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where Internet business would not be able to exist and function properly.
A new law imposing restrictions on users of
social media has come into effect in Russia.
It means bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country's larger media outlets.
includes measures to ensure that bloggers cannot remain anonymous, and states that social networks must maintain six months of data on its users. The information must be stored on servers based in Russian territory, so that government authorities can
With the RuNet already plagued by Roskomnadzor blacklists, blogger registration, and the blocking of Twitter accounts with no discernible justification, Russia now wants to introduce an automated real-time filtering system that will block websites that
contain harmful content.
The proposed plan would add a second layer of censorship to Russia's already-pervasive website blacklist system , under which ISPs are required to block all websites containing calls to riots, extremist activities,
the incitement of ethnic and (or) sectarian hatred, terrorist activity, or participation in public events held in breach of appropriate procedures.
According to an ITAR-TASS report , Russia would require ISPs to install smart filters that would screen and block
harmful content , which would presumably be identified based on a pre-determined list of keywords. The smart filtering idea and its technical details have been proposed by the Safe Internet League, a Kremlin-loyal NGO partnering with
several large Russian ISPs.
Safe Internet League executive director Denis Davydov explains that existing blacklists are not great at filtering out dangerous content, and says their system, once installed at the level of ISPs, could analyze web
content in real time and easily block offensive pages:
We suggest introducing preemptive Internet filtering, which allows us to automatically determine the content of the page queried by the user in real time. The
system evaluates the content on the page and determines the category which the information belongs to. In case the category is forbidden, the system blocks the webpage automatically.
The typically snarky personalities of the RuNet
thought the League's new initiative would do nothing to create a safer online environment -- instead, the added layer of algorithmic bureaucracy would only contribute to the existing limits already imposed on netizens in Russia, and would make the users
work even harder to access their preferred content.
Earlier this summer, Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina had already proposed an automated Internet filtering system in an attempt to protect the minds of Russia's youngsters. Mizulina demanded that the
Internet service providers block adult Web content by default in an effort to create a Clean Internet. Consumers would be allowed to opt out of the filtration system, but only by making a special request to their ISP.
developers at the Safe Internet League have already tested their two-step filtration model in Kostroma and Omsk regions, as well as the Komi Republic, and have found it works quite well (or so he says). Should the system go into broader use, it will
generate a significant escalation of state attempts to control the Russian Internet. Users have found multiple ways of getting around blocks generated by blacklists, using VPNs and other circumvention tools to view their favorite blacklisted websites. If
the smart filtering system is indeed implemented, one can only guess how quickly Russian netizens will learn to work around the new, ever-pervasive Internet controls.
Under the Kremlin's Internet surveillance program known as SORM-2 , Russian Internet service providers are obligated to purchase and install special equipment that allows the Federal Security Service (FSB) to track specific words (like bomb
or government ) in online writing and conversation. If officials request additional information about a particular user, the ISP must comply.
Until recently, SORM-2 applied only to ISPs. Last week, Russian Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree that will expand SORM-2's reach to online social networks and all websites that allow people to message one another. Sites like Facebook and Google are now obligated to install surveillance gadgetry, sometimes referred to
as backdoors, that will allow the FSB to monitor Internet users independently. It's impossible to say exactly how this will work, as Medvedev's order prohibits websites from disclosing the technical details of the government's surveillance
Decree N743 is intended to amend the controversial Law on Bloggers, which created a government registry for bloggers who have more than 3,000 daily readers. Registered bloggers are subject to media-focused
regulations that can make them more vulnerable to fines and lawsuits than their less popular counterparts. Registered bloggers also are banned from using obscene language and required to fact-check any information they publish. Critics say the law places
serious curbs on Internet freedom.
Medvedev's decision to extend Internet surveillance mechanisms to social networks surprised Russia's Internet companies. A PR officer from Yandex, the country's largest search engine, said the
company received no advanced notice of the change.
Once again, it's unclear what we're supposed to do, what the actual requirements are, and how much all this will cost, said Anton Malginov, legal head of the Mail.ru, which
owns Odnoklassniki.ru, one of Russia's most popular social networks. Businesses are still awaiting clarification from Russia's Communications Ministry.
If the government chooses to enforce every letter of Medvedev's decree,
Russia's social networks will join ISPs in buying and installing equipment that allows the FSB to spy on users. Thus SORM-2 would have its 2.0.
At first glance, SORM 2.0 seems redundant, as social network traffic already
passes through the wiretaps now installed at the ISP level. In order to obtain detailed information about individual users, however, the FSB must file formal requests, which can be a burdensome process. Installing surveillance instruments at the source
of the data, however, will grant authorities the power to conduct targeted realtime surveillance. The procedure will be faster and simpler than dealing with ISPs.
Before August 1, websites were under no obligation to record and
store users' data. The Law on Bloggers changed that. Since August 1, even before Medvedev interpreted the blogger law to be an extension of SORM-2, social networks have been required to keep certain information on file for six months. The costs of this
storage will undoubtedly fall on businesses and, in turn, consumers. Websites that cannot attract additional advertising revenue might erect paywalls or even be forced to close down. These massive data stores can also be vulnerable to malicious hacking
by third party actors.
And the degree to which extending SORM-2 controls to social networks will help authorities catch criminals remains largely unknown.
How should bloggers respond to these developments?
Most Russian Internet users don't have to worry about anything. As Anton Nossik, one of the founding fathers of the RuNet, put it almost a year ago, the government's actions against bloggers are politically driven. For the most part, Russia's new laws
don't threaten Internet users who steer clear of politics. Those who do speak out about sociopolitical issues, however, might attract the FSB's sudden attention, though there are only enough federal police to keep a close eye on the country's leading
Of course, that may be little solace in a world where Big Brother never sleeps.
Russia's State Duma (parliament) has approved a bill to accelerate a new set of Internet restrictions that will provide for the banning of such web services as Facebook, Booking.com and Amazon.
A law requiring all online companies to store users'
personal data on Russian territory was passed last July and was set to enter into effect in September 2016, but then awmakers submitted a bill to move the deadline forward by more than a year. The bill to set the deadline to Jan. 1, 2015, has now passed
the crucial second reading.
Lobbying group the Information & Computer Technologies Industry Association said in an open letter on Monday that the rule would cripple Russia's IT industry. Russia simply lacks the technical facilities to host
databases with users' personal data, and setting up the infrastructure within the remaining three months is impossible, the letter said. , The group said on its website:
Most companies will be forced to put
their operations on hold, inflicting untold damage on the Russian economy
But their appeal failed to sway lawmakers, who fast-tracked the bill --- a procedure that, most political pundits say, implies endorsement from the Kremlin.
Starting next May, Russian websites guilty of more than one copyright violation will be permanently blocked. The move comes as part of a new anti-piracy bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, ramping up what many critics see as an
already draconian set of copyright protection rules. Once a website is blocked by a court decision, it cannot be unblocked, according to the bill.
The bill extends a previous measure that was limited to video production, but amendments approved by
Putin this week expand it to include all kinds of copyrighted content such as books, music and software. The only exception made is for photographs.
The amendments also oblige website owners to disclose their real names, postal addresses and
e-mail addresses on the site.
An online petition against the amendments gathered more than 100,000 signatures in August, mandating a governmental review, but has so far been ignored by the relevant officials.
Vladimir Putin once said half the Internet is nothing but porno materials. While a major academic study in 2010 found that, in reality, just 4% of websites were pornographic, it's an undisputed fact that there is indeed a lot of adult-rated
material on the Web.
If the Russian court system gets its way, however, the number of legal pornographic websites on the RuNet could drop to zero. That's right: a district court in Tatarstan has banned 136 porn sites, and the
language of its ruling implies that all Internet porn is hereby against the law.
On April 13, 2015, the newspaper Izvestia reported that a court in Tatarstan's Apastovsky district has ordered Roskomnadzor, the federal government's
media censor, to add 136 websites to its Internet blacklist, if the sites fail to purge themselves of all pornographic content within the next three days. The list of websites includes xHamster, one of the most popular destinations for pornography in the
The local district attorney's office, which petitioned the court to crack down on Internet porn, cited in its suit obscure international agreements from the early twentieth century, Izvestia reported.
First, prosecutors pointed out that international treaties constitute an integral part of Russian law according to the Russian Constitution, even arguing, rather unorthodoxly, that international obligations take priority over domestic
legislation, when the two are in conflict. Then, prosecutors cited the Convention for the Suppression of the Circulation of Obscene Publications, signed in Paris in 1910, and the subsequent international agreement signed in Geneva in 1923, both of which
ban the production, possession, and distribution of pornographic materials.
The signatories to these international accords were, of course, the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union, and the Apastovsky district attorney says today's
Russian Federation is still bound by these agreements.
According to an adult-film maker who spoke to Izvestia, Russian law is very vague about regulating pornography. The only law on the books, he says, is Article 242 of the
federal criminal code, which delineates several illegal types of distribution, but does not clearly define legal ways to advertise, disseminate, and trade in porn.
How did the Tartarstan prosecutors flag 136 websites, Russia's
largest-ever single ban request, for Roskomnadzor's blacklist? The district attorney's office says it searched Yandex (Russia's leading Internet search engine) for the terms Kazan prostitutes and porno video. Film experts at the Ministry of
Culture then examined the websites on this list and confirmed that they are indeed brimming with pornographic content.
It remains unclear if Roskomnadzor will block these websites across Russia or only in Tatarstan. It is also
unknown if Roskomnadzor and the Apastovsky district attorney will stop with these 136 websites, or wage a larger campaign against the millions of other porn sites online.
Whatever happens, this is just the latest episode in a
broader crackdown on the Internet that has taken place in Russia since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012. For some Russian Internet users, like musician Sergei Shnurov, Putin's third presidential term has already spoiled porn, whatever
happens in Tatarstan.
Russia's internet censor has written to Google, Twitter and Facebook warning them against violating Russian repressive internet laws and a spokesman said they risked being blocked if they did not comply.
Roskomnadzor said it had sent letters this week
to the three US-based internet companies asking them to comply with its censorship laws. A spokesman said:
In our letters we regularly remind [companies] of the consequences of violating the legislation.
He added that because of the encryption technology used by the three firms, Russia had no way of blocking specific websites and so could only bring down particular content it deemed in violation of law by blocking access to their whole
To comply with the law the three firms must hand over data on Russian bloggers with more than 3,000 readers per day and take down websites that Roskomnadzor wishes to ban.
A law passed in 2014 gives Russian prosecutors the right
to block, without a court decision, websites with information about protests that have not been sanctioned by authorities. Under other legislation bloggers with large followings must go through an official registration procedure and have their identities
confirmed by a government agency.
Russia is to push ahead with a new right to be forgotten censorship law modelled on the EU version. The Kremlin has been eyeing up the European censorship and wants its own version running by January 2016.
The Russian versions goes a little
further and includes an imperative for search engines to comply with requests made under the proposed Russian version rather than decide for themselves about whether de-linking is warranted.
Igor Shchyogolev, an aide of Russian president Vladimir
Putin, claimed: Citizens must be able to use the right to be forgotten.
In Russia right to be forgotten censorship will be administered by state internet censors, Roskomnadzor.
Lawmakers have passed a bill enabling further internet under Russia's version of the 'right to be forgotten'. The bill was rushed through parliament after only being submitted on May 29.
The new law, passed despite objections from Yandex, Russia's
largest search engine, will allow people to censor search links about them that they do not like. i
The legislation is reported to be broader than the European Union's right to be forgotten initiative.
Yandex, after failing to get
amendments incorporated, said it had major objections to the final version of the law said:
Our point has always been that a search engine cannot take on the role of a regulatory body and act as a court or law
enforcement agency. We believe that information control should not limit access to information that serves the public interest. The private interest and the public interest should exist in balance.
Russia's internet censor Roskomnadzor has threatened to block another news website over an informational article about the internet currency bitcoin..
Officials today told Zuckerberg Pozvonit , or Zuckerberg Will Call, which focuses on news
related to Internet entrepreneurialism, that it must delete or edit within the next three days an article it published about bitcoins. If the website refuses, Roskomnadzor will block it.
The suddenly controversial article, titled What Are
Bitcoins and Who Needs Them? was published more than two years ago in April 2013.
Roskomnadzor's warning is a response to a February 2015 court decision in Astrakhan, which determined that the article contains:
The propaganda of tax crimes in the area of legalizing [money laundering] income obtained in a criminal way and has a negative impact on the legal consciousness of citizens."
Russia has just banned Wikipedia over an article about marijuana. Roscomnadzor, the official internet censor, has ordered Russian ISPs to block the site. The ban is due to a specific article about charas, a form of hashish that is handmade in India.
According to Roscomnadzor, the page constitutes instructions on how to make the drug, which makes it illegal under Russian laws.
Wikimedia.ru has declined to avoid the ban by removing the post.
Earlier this month, Russia briefly blocked the
entirety of Reddit over a post about hallucinogenic mushrooms after Reddit similarly refused to remove the post. Reddit later accommodated the censors wishes so as to unblock the site.
The use of HTTPS, which encrypts traffic between websites and
users, is having an impact on ISP level censorship as it prevents the ISPs blocking specific pages.
the ban on the Russian-language Wikipedia, which just lasted a few hours and created a stir among Russian online users.
The agency then removed Wikipedia from it's list of banned websites, quoting that the information in the article had been
edited, in kind adhering to the court decision. Internet users however, noted that Wikipedia didn't seem to have changed or edited the page, but only re-titled it
Russia is looking to expand its control over the internet and is targeting the written word.
According to the deputy head of the Duma Committee on information politics, parliament will be considering new legislation to protect online media
publications from cut-and-paste piracy. Leonid Levin said:
Indeed, there is a conversation with the journalistic community on the topic of additional changes in legislation, including for copy-paste
We will analyze this situation and we are certainly going to look at the possibility of changes, including for the protection of media publications.
At this stage it seems likely that Levin is
referring to the wholesale online piracy of complete articles and publications but no further details have yet been made public. But whatever the intent, plenty of space will be required to report news, generate analysis, express opinion and offer
Russia has blocked access to the world's biggest porn website. The government internet censor, Roskomnadzor, announced in a statement that a ban on PornHub and ten other pornographic websites has been enacted.
A court ruling from the city of Krasnodar
that determined the adult sites violated federal laws concerning the protection of minors from harmful information has been cited as the reason.
A spokesman for the porn site in question released a statement saying the company:
Can confirm that Roskomnadzor has blacklisted Pornhub in Russia and [they] are currently investigating and considering available means to reinstate [the] website in Russia.
Roskomnadzor announced last week via its VKontakte social network page that it was now also illegal to make Internet memes featuring exaggerated or fabricated caricatures of public figures. It cited a violation of Russian legislation on personal
information in addition to besmirching the honor, dignity and business reputation of public figures.
A human rights organization that monitors web-censorship and pirate site blocks in Russia has been ordered to be blocked by a local court. A legal challenge was initiated bit it failed to convince prosecutors.
When it comes to blocking websites,
Russia is becoming somewhat of a world leader. Although not in the same league as China, the country blocks thousands of websites on grounds ranging from copyright infringement to the publication of extremist material, suicide discussion and the
promotion of illegal drugs.
The scale of the censorship is closely monitored by local website Roscomsvoboda. More commonly recognized by its Western-friendly URL RuBlacklist.net , the project advocates freedom on the Internet, monitors and
publishes data on block, and provides assistance to Internet users and site operators who are wrongfully subjected to restrictions.
It was advise on circumventing blocking that appears to have irked authorities, prompting a court process against
the site that began in the first half of 2015. However, while the courts want the circumvention advice URL banned, it is standard practice in Russia to block URLs and IP addresses, meaning that RuBlocklist will be blocked in its entirety.
website next says that it will takes its case against censorship to regional court and Russia's supreme court if necessary.
Tor. VPNs. Website mirroring. The mere mention of these and other online tools for circumventing censorship could soon become propaganda under proposed amendments to Russian law.
Russian state media regulator
Roscomnadzor plans to introduce fines for propaganda of online circumvention tools that allow users to access blocked webpages. The changes also equate mirror versions of blocked websites with their originals.
According to news outlet RBC, which claims to possess a copy of the draft document, Roscomnadzor would punish
propaganda of circumvention tools online with fines of 3,000-5,000 rubles (USD $43-73) for individuals or officials, and fines of 50,000-100,000 rubles (USD $730-1460) for corporate entities. While the proposed fines may not be exorbitant, they
set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Beyond restricting tips on accessing blocked websites, the bill also defines mirror websites and allows copyright holders to ask the court to block both the original website
containing pirated content and all of its mirrors-- derivative websites that have similar names and content, including those translated into other languages.
In February 2016, Russian copyright holders suggested a
similar draft bill mandating a fine of 50,000 rubles (USD $730) for ISPs that published information about circumvention. At the time, the bill's creators claimed Roscomnadzor supported the bill, but the state regulator denied it. Circumvention crackdown
is bad for free speech
On the surface, Roscomnadzor's new bill seems to be aimed at protecting copyright holders and limiting access to pirated content online. But the implications of banning circumvention tools would be far
greater. Russian officials have debated restrictions on VPNs and anonymizers for quite a while, but have so far stopped shy of branding the tools--or information about them--as illegal.
As with other Internet-related legislation
in Russia, experts see the new amendments as deliberately overreaching and broad, making them ripe for abuse and further restrictions on free speech. If the legislative changes were applied literally, many innocuous pages with mere mentions of
circumvention technology could be branded as propaganda.
Irina Levova, director for strategic projects at the Institute of Internet Research, told RBC that if the legislative changes were applied literally, many
innocuous pages with mere mentions of circumvention technology could be branded as propaganda.
Levova believes Roscomnadzor and Russian copyright holders are deliberately pressuring ISPs in order to excessively regulate
access to information online. According to her, Internet providers in Russia are technically capable of blocking up to 85% of websites on the RuNet, and any additional restrictive capability would involve mass IP-address blocking, which means even more
law-abiding websites could suffer. Kremlin's creeping war on anonymity
To date, the biggest row around circumvention tools on the RuNet erupted after the website of RosKomSvoboda , a Russian Internet freedom and human rights
organization, was blocked.
In February 2016, the RosKomSvoboda website was added to the RuNet blacklist registry because of a page on the site that educates users on how to circumvent online censorship and access blocked
materials. RosKomSvoboda said the blocking and the court ruling were absurd, since neither information about anonymizing tools, nor the services themselves, were forbidden by Russian law.
Vadim Ampelonsky, Roskomnadzor's
spokesman, stressed that the ruling against RosKomSvoboda created a precedent, since the prosecutor in the case who was in charge of enforcing anti-extremist legislation was able to prove that this information creates conditions for users to access
extremist materials. Ampelonsky said the ruling could inform the future work of prosecutors and courts, when it comes to policing information that helps Russians circumvent censorship.
It is worth nothing that just a month
earlier, in January 2016, Ampelonsky told the news agency RBC TV that circumventing online censorship does not violate the law.
RosKovSvoboda's website was eventually unblocked after they changed the contents of their page with
circumvention instructions. It now contains their report on the court battle and an official Ministry of Communications letter, which provides explanations for some of the circumvention tools that the page previously linked to and explained. The
activists also moved information and links to some other anonymizing and encryption tools to a separate page for their Open RuNet campaign.
For now, Roscomnadzor's spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky has confirmed to RBC news that the
regulator worked with a group of copyright owners in Russia to draft the amendments to Russia's law On information, information technologies and protection of information and the Administrative violations code. On March 17 the draft was discussed
with Internet industry representatives at a Roscomnadzor roundtable on regulating the RuNet, with companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yandex and MailRu in attendance. The bill will now go to the Communications Ministry on March 21 before it moves to
the Russian Duma for voting.
In December 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Internet Economy Forum, where he suggested Russian federal security service and other state agencies should make information threats their top priority and seek out tools for
monitoring such threats online.
Now, a new center for monitoring information attacks is set to be launched in Innopolis, a new Russian smart city. Natalia Kasperskaya, CEO of InfoWatch and co-founder of the antivirus giant
Kaspersky Lab, is launching her project there.
Kasperskaya told Vedomosti news outlet that the center is part of the response to Putin's suggestion to boost information security. Russia already has agencies that work to
oppose and respond to cyberattacks, she says, but insists that her organization will be the first of its kind, monitoring and preventing information attacks online.
Kasperskays says she's currently looking for investors for the
project, but acknowledges that at the outset it will function mostly with grant money and government funding, and will serve state and public needs.
The new monitoring center is the joint brainchild of Kasperskaya and Igor
Ashmanov, CEO of Ashmanov and partners, a big player in the Russian media and communications market. The partners envision that the center will monitor the web using technology developed by Kribrum--another joint project of Kasperskaya and Ashmanov.
Kribrum's social media analytics and reputation management software can scrape online content and analyze it for sentiment and emotion. Ashmanov says its capabilities are sophisticated enough to be able to predict an information attack online as soon as
it starts, as well as to spot its organizers. Most of the monitoring efforts will likely target the Russian social networks and blogosphere, where political debates and metaphorical "mud flinging" are the most active.
Russian human rights NGO Agora reports that although content filtering and blocking remain the main tools of Russian Internet policy, they are largely regarded as ineffective due to the sheer volume of individual acts of censorship. In an effort to more effectively suppress dissemination of information and free speech, the Russian authorities are attempting to increase the pressure on users--and this is where evidence from monitoring initiatives such as the one proposed by Kasperskaya and Ashmanov could be seen as useful, especially when charging Internet users with legal violations such as posting extremist materials. Agora notes that the increasingly real prison sentences handed down for liking and sharing information published on social media aim to intimidate users and deter them from discussing sensitive social and political issues online.
Tatarstan, a region in the Russian Federation, has proposed a bill that would bring significant fines for users of online gambling websites. The fines would be extended to parents or guardians that allowed their children to use gambling websites as well.
Proposed fines range between 10,000 and 20,000 roubles ($150 - $300) for users of online casinos. The bill also proposes a heftier fine in the sum of 150,000 roubles (approximately $2,300) for landlords that allow gambling on their properties.
Opponents of the bill however note that it is redundant as the current legislation in Russia completely forbids gambling even via the internet with very few exceptions.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has passed a bill that would censor the distribution of information by news aggregators with more than one million visitors a day.
Under the news censorship law, news aggregators such as Yandex will have
to check that news is validated by state censors before it can be distributed. Russia's communications censor, Roskomnadzor, will have the power to ban news items. News aggregators will not be liable if 'unreliable information' is textual quotation from
any media outlet.
The bill stipulates that only a Russian national or company may be an owner of news aggregators.
The law is expected to take effect on 1 January, 2017.
It's been a rough month for Internet freedom in Russia. After it breezed through the Duma, President Putin signed the Yarovaya package into law--a set of radical anti-terrorism provisions drafted by ultra-conservative United Russia
politician Irina Yarovaya, together with a set of instructions on how to implement the new rules. Russia's new surveillance law includes mandatory data retention and government backdoors for encrypted communications.
As if that
wasn't scary enough, under the revisions to the criminal code, Russians can now be prosecuted for failing to report a crime. Citizens now risk a year in jail for simply not telling the police about suspicions they might have about future terrorist
But some of the greatest confusion has come from ISPs and other telecommunication companies. These organizations now face impossible demands from the Russian state. Now they can be ordered to retain every byte of data that
they transmit, including video, telephone calls, text messages, web traffic, and email for six months--a daunting and expensive task that requires the kind of storage capacity that's usually associated with NSA data centers in Utah. Government access to
this data no longer requires a warrant. Carriers must keep all metadata for three years; ISPs one year. Finally, any online service (including social networks, email, or messaging services) that uses encrypted data is now required to permit the Federal
Security Service (FSB) to access and read their services' encrypted communications, including providing any encryption keys.
Opposition to the Yarovaya package has come from many quarters. Technical experts have been united in
opposing the law. Russia's government Internet ombudsman opposed the bill. Putin's own human rights head, Mikhail Fedotov , called upon the Senators of Russia's Federal Council to reject the bill. ISPs have pointed out that compliance would cost them
trillions of rubles .
But now the law is here, and in force. Putin has asked for a list of services that must hand over their keys. ISPs have begun to consider how to store an impossibly large amount of data. Service providers are
required to consider how to either break unbreakable encryption or include backdoors for the Russian authorities.
It is clear that foreign services will not be spared. Last week, the VPN provider, Private Internet Access (PIA),
announced that they believed their Russian servers had been seized by the Russian authorities . PIA says they do not keep logs, so they could not comply with the demand, but they have now discontinued their Russian gateways and will no longer be doing
business in the region.
Russia's ISPs, messaging services, and social media platforms have no such choice: because they cannot reasonably comply with all the demands of the Yarovaya package, they become de facto criminals
whatever their actions. And that, in turn, gives the Russian state the leverage to extract from them any other concession it desires. The impossibility of full compliance is not a bug--it's an essential feature.
Russia is not the
only nation whose lawmakers and politicians are heading in this direction, especially when it comes to requiring backdoors for encrypted communications. Time and time again, technologists and civil liberties groups have warned the United States, France ,
Holland , and a host of other nations that the anti-encryption laws they propose cannot be obeyed without rewriting the laws of mathematics. Politicians have often responded by effectively telling the Internet's experts don't worry, you'll work out a
way. Let us be clear: government backdoors in encrypted communications make us all less safe, no matter which country is holding the keys.
Technologists have sometimes believed that technical impossibility means that the laws
are simply unworkable -- that a law that cannot be obeyed is no worse than no law at all. As Russia shows, regulations that no one can comply with aren't dead-letter laws. Instead, they corrode the rule of law, leaving a rusting wreckage of partial
compliance that can be exploited by powers who will use their enforcement powers for darker and more partial ends than justice.
Russians concerned with the fall of Internet freedom, including the Society for the Protection of the
Internet (IPI), have planned a protest in cities across the country on July 26. EFF will continue to follow the situation closely as it develops.
The world's largest professional network LinkedIn could soon be blocked in Russia. The company has failed to comply with a snooping law that obliges companies to keep data on Russian users in the country. A spokesman for the Russian internet censor,
We are seeking a court order to block LinkedIn. We twice sent requests in the summer, but they did not provide answers to our questions,.
If the appellate court upholds the
judgment, and it will no longer be appealed, the decision will enter into force within 30 days. We will include the appropriate IP address in the register of violators of the personal data rights, which means blocking.
This is the
first company we are suing in court. In future we will use the same mechanism in relation to other companies.
The professional social network LinkedIn is the first casualty of a Russian law that requires control of foreign websites via their Russian data being stored on a server located in Russia. This ensures that there is a local access point should the
authorities wish to view the internet activity of Russian users.
LinkedIn's days in Russia are now said to be numbered, after a Moscow court gave the Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor permission to block the professional social network. The company
hasn't moved its servers to Russia, and kept storing information about third parties who are not registered users of the network, thus failing to comply with another section of the new law.
The website will be blocked as soon as Roskomnadzor
receives the reasoning (that accompanies) the court decision, after which LinkedIn will be added to a list of websites refusing to comply with personal data laws,
Russian President Vladimir Putin's Internet advisor German Klimenko told
Kommersant that large companies had enough time to migrate their data. This not only concerns Facebook and Twitter, he added, singling out the social media platforms, which haven't complied with the law so far either, this applies to all
Social network LinkedIn is now set to be blocked today in Russia. The country's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, said
LinkedIn would be unavailable in the country within 24 hours.
Some internet providers have already cut access to the site, which has more than six million members in Russia.
In 2014, Russia introduced legislation requiring social networks
to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian web servers. It is the first time the law has been enforced against a US-based social network.
The U.S. government said on Friday it was deeply concerned over Russia's decision to block
public access to networking site LinkedIn, saying it created a precedent that could be used to justify blocking other sites operating in Russia.
Maria Olson, spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Washington urged the Russian authorities
to restore access immediately to LinkedIn, and said the restrictions harmed competition and the Russian people.
Russia wants to step up its ability to censor the Internet, and it's turning to China for help. China's Great Firewall is the envy of the Putin regime.
The Russian government recently passed a series of measures known as Yarovaya's laws
that require local telecom companies to store all users' data for six months, and hang on to metadata for three years. And if the authorities ask, companies must provide keys to unlock encrypted communications.
There has been some skepticism as to
whether such laws would -- or even could -- be enforced but earlier this month Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, blocked all public access to LinkedIn.
What's more, it is now clear that Russia has been working with authorities in charge of
censoring the Internet in China to import some aspects of the Great Firewall that have made it so successful. According to the Guardian , the two countries have been in close talks for some time, and the Chinese digital equipment maker Huawei has
been enlisted to help Russian telecom companies build the capacity necessary to comply with Yarovaya's laws.
The Russian government is preparing to scale-up its war on people accessing blocked webssites by hitting services that provide workarounds. A new bill developed by the government requires VPNs and other anonymizing services to stop providing access to
blocked domains. If they do not, they themselves will also be blocked. Search engines also face sanctions for linking to banned sites.
When it comes to blocking websites, Russia is quickly emerging as a world leader. Tens of thousands of sites
are now blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other censorship grounds.
Of course, Russian citizens are not always prepared to be constrained by their government, so large numbers of people regularly find ways to
circumvent ISP blockades. The tools and methods deployed are largely the same as those used in the West, including VPNs, proxies, mirror sites and dedicated services such as Tor.
To counter this defiance, the Russian government has been
considering legislation to tackle sites, tools and services that provide Internet users with ways to circumvent blockades. According to local news outlet Vedomosti , that has now resulted in a tough new bill.
Russia's plan is to issue a nationwide
ban on systems and software that allow Internet users to bypass website blockades previously approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor. This means that if a VPN, proxy or similar tool unblocks torrent site RuTracker, for example, it will be breaking the
law. As a result, it too will find itself on Russia's banned site list.
The publication says it has confirmed the bill's existence with a federal official and several Internet service provider sources.
As previously reported , Russia also
has search engines in its sights. It wants to prevent links to banned sites appearing in search results, claiming that these encourage people to access banned material. The new bill reportedly lays out a new framework which will force search engines to
remove such links. Failing to do so could result in fines of up to $12,400 per breach, clearly a significant issue for companies such as Google and local search giant Yandex.
The wolrd's most popular porn website, Pornhub has introduced stringent age verification checks at the bequest of the Russian government.
PornHub is now asking Russian viewers to verify their age by logging in with their social media account on
VKontakte, Russia's answer to Facebook.
This is a stricter requirement than logging in via Facebook or Google as VKontakte itself requires connection to a mobile phone that has been mandatorily registered against a passport.
through a social media account may be daunting to those concerned that the same company which has the contacts of their close family and friends is also aware of their porn watching habits. Though PornHub has promised a third party would not get more
users' information than before, the consensus on its VKontakte page showed some of its biggest fans are precisely concerned that may happen.
The system was considered the most effective and simple way to ensure compliance with Russian laws about
the access to the content for adults. Dmitry Kolodin, a representative of PornHub in Russia told news site Meduza, confirming the new measure came into effect Thursday.
About 1,000 Russians demonstrated in Moscow on 26th August against repressive government controls on Internet use. They shouted slogans such as Russia will be free and Russia without censorship ,.
In July, Russia's parliament voted to
outlaw web tools that let Internet users sidestep official bans of certain websites. It allows telecommunications censor Roskomnadzor to compile a list of so-called anonymiser services and prohibit any that fail to respect the bans, while also
requiring users of online messaging services to identify themselves with a telephone number.
The latest measure to deny Russian people the freedom of expression online will take effect on 1st November. New laws will require VPNs to comply with the Russian State's online censorship programme and block all websites that are on the government
censor's block list.
The Russian State Duma passed the new piece of legislation earlier this year and it was quickly signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
Most of the major international VPN providers are not expected to comply with the
law. Some, including Private Internet Access (PIA) , has already confirmed this. PIA also removed all their servers from Russia last year after a number were seized without prior warning. It remains to be seen how the Russian state will try and sanction
them as a result, but their own websites can certainly be expected to be added to the blacklist.
Online rights activists have also been quick to condemn the new law. Eva Galperin, the Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) said she believed the law would only be applied selectively. It is expected that the Russian regime will use the new powers to target opposition activists ahead of next year's Presidential Elections. Overseas companies and businesspeople
based in Russia which use VPNs are unlikely to see their service affected.
Update: Small Russian ISPs won't be able to afford new state blocking requirements
A draft order of Roskomnadzor, Russia's
Federal internet censor, requires the most expensive and degrading method of blocking - a deep packet analysis of all traffic passing (DPI, deep packet inspection). Because of its high cost, the requirements of Roskomnadzor will lead to the sale of small
and medium providers business to large one, experts say.
The law on the prohibition of VPNs, enacted in Russia, has not yet
affected access to sites that are prohibited. As before, you can still access them via anonymizers, VPN and TOR.
Analysts of Roskomsvoboda - a public organization, which activities are aimed at counteracting censorship on the Internet, explain
that users will not see any effects before December anyway, as the process of the law allows 36 days for VPN providers to respond to blocking requests before taking any action against them.
Some well-known VPN-services have already reacted to the
next round of censorship in the Russian segment of the Internet. Representatives of ExpressVPN expressed surprise at this issue, asking how exactly Russia intends to implement this new regulation in practice?
ExpressVPN will certainly never agree
with any standards that would jeopardize the ability of our product to protect the digital rights of users, remarks the company.
Tunnelbear imparted that the service belongs to a Canadian company, hence operates according to the local laws, which
do not limit them in any way.
VPN-service TorGuard also does not intend to cooperate with Roskomnadzor, directly declaring that it will refuse to block sites if they are approached with such requests.
VPN users in Russia were braced for big
problems last November when a new law came into force requiring all anonymiser services to comply with state censorship laws or be blocked . The expectation was that this would lead to most international VPNs being quickly blocked in Russia.
However, to date, that hasn't been the case and all of the most popular international VPNs in Russia remain available.
According to the Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) this is because Russia has not yet requested any VPN service to block the sites listed on states registered of banned
vpncompare.co.uk speculates that maybe the reasons for the delayed blocking of VPNs is either a lack of expensive deep
packet inspection routers able to block VPNs or else concerns that blocking VPNs may harm commercial and corporate interests. But this may only be a reprieve whist infrastructure upgrades are implemented or legal tweaks to distingusih between corporate
VPS and personal VPNs.
The Russian government is currently discussing plans to build its own independent internet infrastructure that will be used by BRICS member states 204 Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
The Russian Security Council has today formally
asked the country's government to start the building of a global DNS system that Russia and fellow BRICS member states could use to take control of the internet as used within the BRICS countries.
Russia and fellow BRICS nations would have the
option to flip a switch and move Internet traffic from today's main DNS system to their own private system. The states will then have absolute and direct control of sites to be blocked. Furthermore, the alternative DNS system also allows oppressive
regimes to deanonymize Tor traffic and hunt for dissidents, via an attack called DefecTor.
Russia, China, and many other countries have criticized the US for hoarding control over the domain naming system (DNS), a position they claim has allowed
the US to intercept and tap global Internet traffic. Last year, the US handed over control over the DNS system to ICANN , an independent organization. While Russia and China welcomed the move, they actually wanted the DNS system to be controlled by the
United Nations' International Telecommunication Union. This is because the two countries have more power in UN matters than control over an NGO, like ICANN.
After Instagram removed a video detailing a corruption investigation into Russia's ruling elite, it's time to talk about social networks and the Kremlin.
The one thing that compensates for the strictness of Russian laws is the
lack of necessity to follow them. The Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin may have penned this aphorism in the mid-19th century, but it's still relevant in 2018 -- especially when discussing the specifics of doing business in Russia and
interacting with the Russian government.
A recent practical lesson in this reality emerged when president Putin signed the Personal Data Domestication Law (PDDL) in 2015. The PDDL, effective from 1 September 2015, demanded that
every piece of personal data of Russian citizens operated by any online service should be stored in a data warehouse within the Russian Federation's geographical borders.
This is a quite remarkable (and typical) piece of Russia's
legislative absurdity. Imagine a small online store somewhere in France selling, for instance, carpets. It stores its customers' data on a cloud service without even knowing the whereabouts of physical servers. In France? Iceland? Is the data somehow
distributed throughout the globe by the hosting service provider? Even if the store managed to somehow separate its customers with Russian citizenship (and here don't forget the homesick employees of the French embassy in Moscow ordering carpets from
home, still not being subject to the PDDL), it is hard to imagine our hypothetical store would be capable to setup technical infrastructure to comply with the PDDL.
Of course, Russian legislators were not concerned with small
online stores (though a verbatim reading of the PDDL leaves no chance of excluding them). The law is targeted at messaging services and social networks: Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, Skype and so on. Roskomnadzor (the Russian government internet censorship
agency) has been very clear -- Facebook and Google should move their servers to Russia, making their users data and, most important, messages subject to SORM, the internet surveillance system created and run by the Russian security services.
An online petition addressed to Google, Facebook and Twitter urging them not to comply with the PDDL and thus to protect privacy and data of their customers from the FSB was launched in summer 2015. It quickly collected over
50,000 signatures, and some of the best known Russian internet gurus among them. It's hard to say whether the petition was effective or that the internet companies calculated their expenses for fulfilment of the PDDL, but the fact is three years later,
in 2018, none of the major players (Viber being the only exception among messengers) agreed to follow the PDDL. No sanctions from Roskomnadzor followed, though it did threaten them on a number of occasions.
Why so? Dura lex, sed
lex, surely? The legislation could be perfectly absurd, yet still it might be hard for a western reader to imagine how a corporation (with all its lawyers and compliance departments) could just disobey it and walk away. But this is Russia --
not a democracy, but an authoritarian regime. And there is no rule of law, but the rule of political momentum.
Shutting down Twitter in Russia, where politicians loyal to Putin have accounts and enjoy tweeting, or including
Instagram on Roskomnadzor's blacklist (which would imply an immediate block by any ISP in Russia), making million of young Instagram users unhappy just before the parliamentary and presidential elections -- any decision of this kind has to be
approved by the Russian president himself. No court and no other part of the regime would dare to take responsibility given the possible political consequences. Anything that could make people unhappy and drive them to the streets is decided by Putin.
This is the way an autocracy operates.
Once you realise this fact, it's easy to see why LinkedIn was selected by Roskomnadzor as the first victim of PDDL in summer 2016. Indeed, LinkedIn is still the only victim. It was selected by Roskomnadzor carefully: sure, it's a big brand, with an even
a bigger one behind it (Microsoft), but LinkedIn's popularity in Russia has been limited to a small part of the white-collar audience working for or doing business with western companies. A rather small audience. And what's more important: this is not
the kind of audience that would march on the streets against internet censorship. LinkedIn was chosen to scare off larger players. On the technical and legal side, there was absolutely no difference between how LinkedIn and how Facebook stored and dealt
with the personal data of their Russian users. The only thing that made a difference was politics.
This PDDL case has been an important lesson, and it's a pity that not everyone has learnt it for good. In February, Alexey Navalny,
the Russian opposition leader unlawfully banned from the presidential election, but who remains Putin's most prominent and feared critic, published a video proving that Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to US lobbyist Paul Manafort,
secretly met with Sergey Prikhodko, deputy prime minister of Russian government who oversees foreign policy. Indeed, the leaked conversation happened during a yacht trip off the Norwegian coast in August 2016. Several escort girls were also present.
This could be the missing link between Manafort and Putin -- and perhaps it was, judging from the Russian government's reaction. The day after Navalny's investigation was published online on YouTube and Instagram, a court
in the small southern Russian city of Ust'-Labinsk (which happens to be Deripaska's hometown) decided that Navalny's video violated the oligarch's and deputy prime minister right to a private life (!). It ordered every instance of the video to be
blacklisted by Roskomnadzor, effective immediately. This pace was record-breaking: usually any lawsuits relating to violation of an individual's right to a private life take years. For instance, in summer 2016, the FSB leaked footage of Navalny fishing
with his family on a lake. This surveillance video was included as part of a documentary on a state-owned TV-channel, and used as evidence that opposition leader spends his vacation in too chic a manner. The court is still due to set a hearing date.
But what does it mean when Roskomnadzor is required to block some video from the technical point of view? When a website is blacklisted, it is included on the registry of forbidden content, which Roskomnadzor updates several times a
day and distributes among all Russians ISPs. The latter face huge fines or the revocation of their license if they fail to restrict access their customers' access to every website included in the registry. If a website uses HTTPS, a secure connection
protocol, though, the ISP doesn't possess the information concerning which exact URL a user is trying to reach. Technically, in the Deripaska case, only two entries on Navalny's blog have been included in the blacklist registry, but all the ISPs blocked
the entire domain of Navalny.com (some of them even blocked all the subdomains, including the website of Navalny's presidential campaign). They simply had no choice. Similarly, should any single YouTube video be included in the registry, YouTube will
become inaccessible for customers of Russian ISPs on the same day. Should any Instagram story be put on the blacklist, millions of Instagram users will get angry. This is already politics.
Thus, having a valid (albeit speedy)
court decision beforehand, Roskomnadzor immediately blacklisted navalny.com and a few dozen other websites which dared to publish Navalny's investigation -- but not the YouTube and Instagram videos with exactly the same information and
mentioned in the same court decision alongside other prohibited URLs. At the end of the day, Roskomnadzor are not fools: they are well aware of the risk of shutting down YouTube -- this kind of action nearly led to a coup in Brazil recently.
Instead, Roskomnadzor started sending emails. They informed YouTube and Instagram that Navalny's video is recognised as illegal in Russia and asked them to remove it voluntarily. YouTube contacted Navalny's office and asked him to remove it. Navalny
refused. Youtube refused also. Instagram took the video down without even attempting to contest Roskomnadzor's email. Roskomnadzor threatened Google with sanctions because of YouTube's disobeyal. Google ignored it.
A month later,
the video (which has over seven million views) is still freely accessible on the YouTube. No sanctions were applied to Google. After two weeks of threats, Roskomnadzor officially admitted it is not considering shutting down YouTube in Russia. So Google,
via YouTube, has outplayed internet censorship and once again, as in the case of PDDL, proven its readiness to put its customers' interests first. Meanwhile, Facebook, in the form of Instagram, should be considered a company that is ready to help Putin
clean up the Manafort mess by censoring material online.
Legal compliance shouldn't be the only way of doing business in authoritarian states, where the regime can easily undertake unlawful actions to pursue political goals.
Politics is another consideration. So is protecting your customers.
As a Moscow court ordered the ban of messenger app Telegram on April 13, 2018, Deputy Communications Minister Alexey Volin tried to sound reassuring: those who want to keep using it, he said, will look for ways to bypass the blocking. In a rare
moment of consensus with the Russian authorities, many Telegram users agreed.
Though conceived as a messenger app similar to WhatsApp, Telegram earned its popularity in Russia thanks to its "channels," a blogging
platform somewhere between Twitter and Facebook which quickly attracted political commentators, journalists and officials. Telegram channels are a booming business, they are widely used in political and corporate wars. Last year Vedomosti, a business
newspaper, claimed that political ads (or damaging leaks) on Telegram's most popular channels could cost as much as 450,000 rubles ($7,500.)
But Telegram's CEO Pavel Durov has repeatedly and vocally refused to comply with the
demand of Russian security services to give up the messenger's encryption keys . And as the year-long battle between Telegram and the Russian authorities seemed to draw to a close with the decision to block the app, reaction to the announcement has been
passionate and often derisive.
Kristina Potupchik, formerly a press officer for a pro-Kremlin youth movement, wrote:
Russia has finally become the world's second largest economy after China! At
least in the field of permanently blocking Telegram.
Channels dedicated to Russian politics and the inner workings of the Kremlin --among the most popular on the platform-- also largely claimed they were not worried
by the ban. About 85% of our users have installed one [a VPN] in the last 24 hours. If you haven't, here are the instructions, channel "Karaulny" (The Sentinel) told its 66,000+ followers.
So far, Telegram remains
available in Russia, though sources have told the Interfax news agency that blocking could start as early as April 16.
Comment: Russia crosses another red line in online censorship
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns today's decision by a Moscow court to order the immediate blocking of the popular encrypted messaging service Telegram after it refused to surrender its encryption keys to the Russian intelligence agencies. The
decision represents yet another escalation in online censorship and an additional obstacle to journalism in Russia, RSF said.
Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. said:
By blocking Telegram, the Russian authorities are crossing another red line in their control of the Internet. This is a major new blow to free speech in Russia. It also sends a strong intimidatory signal to the digital technology
giants that are battling with the Russian authorities. The authorities are targeting a tool that is essential for the work of journalists, especially for the confidentiality of their sources and data.
Russia's internet censor Roskomnadzor has blocked an estimated 16 million IP addresses in a massive operation against the banned Telegram messaging app.
Telegram is widely used by the Russian political establishment, and prominent politicians and
officials have openly flouted or criticised the ban. Data from the app showed several Kremlin officials had continued to sign in on Tuesday evening, four days after a court ordered the service to be blocked.
Backed by Russia's federal security
service (FSB) and a court decision, Roskomnadzor has pushed forward, banning subnets, totalling millions of IP addresses, used by Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, two hosting sites that Telegram switched to over the weekend to help circumvent the
Andrei Soldatov, the co-author of The Red Web, an authoritative account of internet surveillance in Russia, said the campaign showed a no-holds-barred approach unconcerned with political fallout. He said:
They've decided the political costs of blocking Telegram and millions and millions of IP addresses used by Amazon and Google are not that high, Soldatov said. Once you cross the line, you can do anything. I think it means that they
could move on from Telegram to big services like Facebook and Google.
The tactic of effectively blocking all websites using a hosting company has worked in the past and the hosting companies have dropped websites as ordered by
Russia's new war room. Putin decrees that Russians don't play games. Maybe it
The Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor, has blocked 1,882 sites with gambling content in just a week.
The latest statistics were published by Betting Business Russia (BBR), an independent online magazine focused on the gaming and betting
industry. The magazine estimates that the censor blocked 806 platforms that represent online casinos, online lotteries or Internet poker rooms.
A large number of the blocked sites during the past week include mirror sites trying to work
around previous block. The most nirrored site, with 298 blocked domains, is Fonbet, the country's largest sportsbook operator.
Despite not offering gambling content, another 172 websites were blocked in the period April 8 to April 14. The magazine
explains that these sites publish information on bookmakers, casinos, gambling machines, and sweepstakes.
Earlier in March 2018, the censor blocked 7398 sites with gambling content.
Russia has strict anti-gambling laws that prohibit almost
any form of betting or real-money games.
Russian lawmakers have proposed a draft law that would impose new obligations on the owners of public networks. Such owners with no registered presence in Russia would be required to set up a local representative office. Other obligations would include
identifying users by their mobile phone numbers, deleting fake news, and preventing the posting of materials that promote violence or pornography, contain strong language, or otherwise breach Russian laws governing content.
We, the undersigned 26 international human rights, media and Internet freedom organisations, strongly condemn the attempts by the Russian Federation to block the Internet messaging service Telegram, which have resulted in extensive
violations of freedom of expression and access to information, including mass collateral website blocking.
We call on Russia to stop blocking Telegram and cease its relentless attacks on Internet freedom more broadly. We
also call the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), the United States and other concerned governments to challenge Russia's actions and uphold the
fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy online as well as offline. Lastly, we call on Internet companies to resist unfounded and extra-legal orders that violate their users' rights.
On 13 April 2018, Moscow's Tagansky District Court granted Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications regulator, its request to block access to Telegram on the grounds that the company had not complied with a
2017 order to provide decryption keys to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Since then, the actions taken by the Russian authorities to restrict access to Telegram have caused mass Internet disruption, including:
Between 16-18 April 2018, almost 20 million Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were ordered to be blocked by Roskomnadzor as it attempted to restrict access to Telegram. The majority of the blocked addresses are owned by
international Internet companies, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Currently 14.6 remain blocked.
This mass blocking of IP addresses has had a detrimental effect on a wide range of web-based services that have nothing to do with Telegram, including, but not limited to, online banking and booking sites, shopping, and flight
Agora, the human rights and legal group, representing Telegram in Russia, has reported it has received requests for assistance with issues arising from the mass blocking from about 60 companies, including online stores, delivery
services, and software developers.
At least six online media outlets ( Petersburg Diary, Coda Story, FlashNord, FlashSiberia, Tayga.info , and 7x7 ) found access to their websites was temporarily blocked.
On 17 April 2018, Roskomnadzor requested that Google and Apple remove access to the Telegram app from their App stores, despite having no basis in Russian law to make this request. The app remains available, but Telegram has not
been able to provide upgrades that would allow better proxy access for users.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers -- such as TgVPN, Le VPN and VeeSecurity proxy - have also been targeted for providing alternative means to access Telegram. Federal Law 276-FZ bans VPNs and Internet anonymisers from
providing access to websites banned in Russia and authorises Roskomnadzor to order the blocking of any site explaining how to use these services.
Restrictive Internet laws
Over the past six years, Russia has adopted a huge raft of laws restricting freedom of expression and the right to privacy online. These include the creation in 2012
of a blacklist of Internet websites, managed by Roskomnadzor, and the incremental extension of the grounds upon which websites can be blocked, including without a court order.
The 2016 so-called 'Yarovaya Law' ,
justified on the grounds of "countering extremism", requires all communications providers and Internet operators to store metadata about their users' communications activities, to disclose decryption keys at the security services' request, and
to use only encryption methods approved by the Russian government - in practical terms, to create a backdoor for Russia's security agents to access internet users' data, traffic, and communications.
In October 2017, a
magistrate found Telegram guilty of an administrative offense for failing to provide decryption keys to the Russian authorities -- which the company states it cannot do due to Telegram's use of end-to-end encryption. The company was fined 800,000 rubles
(approx. 11,000 EUR). Telegram lost an appeal against the administrative charge in March 2018, giving the Russian authorities formal grounds to block Telegram in Russia, under Article 15.4 of the Federal Law "On Information, Information Technologies
and Information Protection".
The Russian authorities' latest move against Telegram demonstrates the serious implications for people's freedom of expression and right to privacy online in Russia and worldwide:
For Russian users apps such as Telegram and similar services that seek to provide secure communications are crucial for users' safety. They provide an important source of information on critical issues of politics, economics and
social life, free of undue government interference. For media outlets and journalists based in and outside Russia, Telegram serves not only as a messaging platform for secure communication with sources, but also as a publishing venue. Through its
channels, Telegram acts as a carrier and distributor of content for entire media outlets as well as for individual journalists and bloggers. In light of direct and indirect state control over many traditional Russian media and the self-censorship many
other media outlets feel compelled to exercise, instant messaging channels like Telegram have become a crucial means of disseminating ideas and opinions.
Companies that comply with the requirements of the 'Yarovaya Law' by allowing the government a back-door key to their services jeopardise the security of the online communications of their Russian users and the people they
communicate with abroad. Journalists, in particular, fear that providing the FSB with access to their communications would jeopardise their sources, a cornerstone of press freedom. Company compliance would also signal that communication services
providers are willing to compromise their encryption standards and put the privacy and security of all their users at risk, as a cost of doing business.
Beginning in July 2018, other articles of the 'Yarovaya Law' will come into force requiring companies to store the content of all communications for six months and to make them accessible to the security services without a court
order. This would affect the communications of both people in Russia and abroad.
Such attempts by the Russian authorities to control online communications and invade privacy go far beyond what can be considered necessary and proportionate to countering terrorism and violate international law.
Blocking websites or apps is an extreme measure , analogous to banning a newspaper or revoking the license of a TV station. As such, it is highly likely to constitute a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression
and media freedom in the vast majority of cases, and must be subject to strict scrutiny. At a minimum, any blocking measures should be clearly laid down by law and require the courts to examine whether the wholesale blocking of access to an online
service is necessary and in line with the criteria established and applied by the European Court of Human Rights. Blocking Telegram and the accompanying actions clearly do not meet this standard.
Various requirements of the 'Yarovaya Law' are plainly incompatible with international standards on encryption and anonymity as set out in the 2015 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression report (
A/HRC/29/32 ). The UN Special Rapporteur himself has written to the Russian government raising serious concerns that the 'Yarovaya Law' unduly restricts the rights to freedom of expression and privacy online. In the European Union, the Court of Justice
has ruled that similar data retention obligations were incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Although the European Court of Human Rights has not yet ruled on the compatibility of the Russian provisions for the disclosure of decryption
keys with the European Convention on Human Rights, it has found that Russia's legal framework governing interception of communications does not provide adequate and effective guarantees against the arbitrariness and the risk of abuse inherent in any
system of secret surveillance.
We, the undersigned organisations, call on:
The Russian authorities to guarantee internet users' right to publish and browse anonymously and ensure that any restrictions to online anonymity are subject to requirements of a court order, and comply fully with
Articles 17 and 19(3) of the ICCPR, and articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by:
Desisting from blocking Telegram and refraining from requiring messaging services, such as Telegram, to provide decryption keys in order to access users private communications;
provisions in the 'Yarovaya Law' requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to store all telecommunications data for six months and imposing mandatory cryptographic backdoors, and the 2014 Data Localisation law, which grant security service easy access
to users' data without sufficient safeguards.
Repealing Federal Law 241-FZ, which bans anonymity for users of online messaging applications; and Law 276-FZ which prohibits VPNs and Internet anonymisers from providing
access to websites banned in Russia;
Amending Federal Law 149-FZ "On Information, IT Technologies and Protection of Information" so that the process of blocking websites meets international standards. Any
decision to block access to a website or app should be undertaken by an independent court and be limited by requirements of necessity and proportionality for a legitimate aim. In considering whether to grant a blocking order, the court or other
independent body authorised to issue such an order should consider its impact on lawful content and what technology may be used to prevent over-blocking.
Representatives of the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organisation for the Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), the United States and other concerned governments to
scrutinise and publicly challenge Russia's actions in order to uphold the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy both online and-offline, as stipulated in binding international agreements to which Russia is a party.
Internet companies to resist orders that violate international human rights law. Companies should follow the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, which emphasise that the responsibility to
respect human rights applies throughout a company's global operations regardless of where its users are located and exists independently of whether the State meets its own human rights obligations.
A demonstration in Moscow against the Russian government's effort to block the messaging app Telegram quickly morphed on Monday into a protest against President Vladimir Putin, with thousands of participants chanting against the Kremlin's increasingly
restrictive censorship regime.
The key demand of the rally, with the hashtag #DigitalResistance, was that the Russian internet remain free from government censorship.
One speaker, Sergei Smirnov, editor in chief of Mediazona, an online news
service , asked the crowd. Is he to blame for blocking Telegram? The crowd responded with a resounding Yes!
Telegram is just the first step, Smirnov continued. If they block Telegram, it will be worse later. They will block everything.
They want to block our future and the future of our children.
Russian authorities blocked Telegram after not being provided with decryption keys. The censors also briefly blocked thousands other websites sharing hosting facilities with Telegram in
the hop of pressurising the hosts into taking down Telegram.
The censorship effort has provoked anger and frustration far beyond the habitual supporters of the political opposition, especially in the business sector, where the collateral damage
continues to hurt the bottom line. There has been a flood of complaints on Twitter and elsewhere that the government broke the internet.
Russia's Internet commissioner, Dmitry Marinichev, is calling on the Attorney General's Office to investigate the legality and validity of Roskomnadzor's actions against Telegram, arguing that the federal censor has caused undue harm to the country's business interests, by blocking millions of IP addresses in its campaign against the instant messenger, and disrupting hundreds of other online services.
Marinichev's suggestion is mentioned in the annual report submitted to Vladimir Putin by Russian Entrepreneurs' Rights Commissioner Boris Titov.
Alexander Zharov, the head of Russia's state internet censor, Roskomnadzor, has said that the government's decision to block the instant messenger Telegram is justified because federal agents have reliably established that all recent terrorist attacks in
Russia and the near abroad were coordinated through Telegram.
Zharov also accused Telegram of using other online services as human shields by redirecting its traffic to their servers and forcing Roskomnadzor to disrupt a wide array of websites,
when it cuts access to the new IP addresses Telegram adopts. Zharov claimed that Telegram's functionality has degraded by 15 to 30% in Russia, due to Roskomnadzor's blocking efforts.
Zharov added that the Federal Security Service has expressed
similar concerns about the push-to-talk walkie-talkie app Zello, which Roskomnadzor banned in April 2017.
Update: Apple asked to block Telegram from its app store
The secure messaging app Telegram was banned in Russia back in April, but so far, it's still available in the Russian version of Apple's App Store. Russia is now asking Apple to remove the app from the App Store. In a supposedly legally binding letter to
Apple, authorities say they're giving the company one month to comply before they enforce punishment for violations.
Despite Russian censorship efforts so far, the majority of users in Russia are still accessing the app, the Kremlin's censorship
arm Roskomnadzor announced yesterday. Only 15 to 30% of Telegram's operations have been disrupted so far.
Russian internet censors also say they are in talks with Google to ban the app from Google Play.
Lawmakers in Russia's State Duma have adopted a final draft of legislation that imposes fines on violations of Russia's ban on Internet anonymizers that grant access to online content blocked by the state internet censor.
According to the bill,
individuals who break the law will face fines of 5,000 rubles ($80), officials will face fines up to 50,000 rubles ($800), and legal entities could be fined up to 700,000 rubles ($11,230).
Internet search engines will also be required to connect
to the Federal State Information System, which will list the websites banned in Russia. Failure to connect to this system can result in fines up to 300,000 rubles ($4,800).
Russia's law on VPN services and Internet anonymizers entered force on
November 1, 2017. The Federal Security Agency and other law enforcement agencies are authorized to designate websites and online services that violate Russia's Internet censorship.
Russia's state censors have formally accused Google of breaking the law by not removing links to websites that are banned in the country.
Roskomnadzor, the state communications censor, said in a statement that the company had not connected to a
database of banned sources in the country, leaving it out of compliance.
The potential penalty that Google could face is currently 700,000 roubles, or about $10,000. But Reuters reports that the Russian government has been considering more drastic
actions, including fining companies up to 1 percent of annual revenue for failing to comply with similar laws.
Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, has filed administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for failing to comply with local censorship laws.
Roskomnadzor said that the two social networks did not explain how and when they would
comply with legislation requiring them to store Russian users' personal data on servers in Russia. Roskomnadzor told CNBC:
The companies managing the social networks of Facebook and Twitter provided formal answers to
our demands to confirm the localization of personal data of Russian users in Russia. They do not contain specifics about the actual implementation of the legislation at the current moment, nor about the timing of the implementation of these standards in
In this regard, today Roskomnadzor begins administrative proceedings against both companies.
Russia has latched onto the usefulness of claiming fake news when censoring messages that it doesn't like.
A new law passing through parliament will punish media outlets with fines and even imprisonment for publishing 'fake news' or information
showing disrespect to government bodies and officials.
Prosecutors would be able to block websites without court orders, while publications found guilty of spreading unreliable socially-significant information would face fines of as much as
$US15,000 under a measure passed Thursday by the lower house of parliament at first reading.
A second law threatens people with up to 15 days in jail, as well as a ban on their publications, if they distribute material expressing a clear
disrespect for society, the state, the official state symbols of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and bodies exercising state power.
Google has agreed to censor search results in Russia as dictated by country's internet censor. This will then allow Google to continue operations in Russia.
Google is one of a few search engines that does not adhere to an official list of banned
websites that should not be included in search results.. However, Google already deletes 70% links from its search results to websites that internet censor Roskomnadzor has banned.
In December of 2018, Roskomnadzor charged Google a fine of 500,000
rubles ($7,590) for refusing to subscribe to the banned list. The company did not challenge the agency's decision and chose to pay the fine. The Russian law that made the fine possible does not allow Roskomnadzor to block sites that do not comply with
its censorship demands, but that did not stop Roskomnadzor from threatening to block Google within Russian borders regardless.
The Russian State Duma is considering multiple bills of law that would further stifle free speech in Russia's already heavily restricted internet environment.
One targets expressions of willful disregard towards the state. Another
targets disinformation. All of them echo increasingly global concerns among governments about the political implications of disinformation -- and unbridled criticism -- on the internet. And all have been heavily criticized by Russian civil society
groups, experts, users and even the government's own ministers. Yet these bills promoting possible further crackdown on free speech still trudge on through the legislative system.
The first bill, a sovereign internet initiative ,
which is yet to reach the floor of the lower chamber of Russia's bicameral parliament, seeks to establish state-regulated internet exchange points that would allow for increased monitoring and control over internet traffic moving into and out of the
Under this law, individuals, officials or organizations accused of spreading fake news disguised as genuine public announcements which are found to promote public disorder or other serious disturbances could be fined for
up to a million rubles (slightly above USD $15,000), unless they remove the violating content in a day's time. The bill also provides measures through which Roskomnadzor, Russia's media watchdog, will order ISPs to block websites hosting the offending
The bill passed its first reading in late January with flying colours, receiving 336 votes in its favor and only 44 against, thanks to the 2016 landslide which guaranteed the ruling United Russia party an absolute voting
The anti-fake news bill will be reviewed again by the Duma in February, conditioned on the revision of some of its most contentious points. The bill pushed through by Putin's party was met with a rare response of
significant opposition, even among the normally acquiescent branches of Russia's highly centralized and executive-biased power structure. The attorney general's office, among others, criticized the bill's vague definitions as potentially damaging to
citizens' civil rights.
The second bill , which came up for review alongside the fake news-busting proposal, is seen as being even more controversial. It seeks to punish vulgar expressions of wilful disregard towards the state,
its symbols and organs of its power with fines of up to 5,000 rubles (around USD $76) and detention for up to 15 days. The bill also passed in the first reading on the same day, despite vocal criticism from both government members (Deputy Communications
Minister Alexey Volin said that calmly accepting criticism was an obligation for state officials, adding that they weren't made of sugar) and opposition parties.
Russia's parliament has advanced repressive new internet laws allowing the authorities to jail or fine those who spread supposed 'fake news' or disrespect government officials online.
Under the proposed laws, which still await final passage and
presidential signature, people found guilty of spreading indecent posts that demonstrate disrespect for society, the state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation, as well as government officials such as President Vladimir Putin, can face up to 15
days in administrative detention. Private individuals who post fake news can be hit will small fines of between $45 and $75, and legal entities face much higher penalties of up to $15,000, according to draft legislation.
The anti-fake news bill,
which passed the Duma, or lower house of parliament, also compels ISPs to block access to content which offends human dignity and public morality.
It defines fake news as any unverified information that threatens someone's life and (or) their
health or property, or threatens mass public disorder or danger, or threatens to interfere or disrupt vital infrastructure, transport or social services, credit organizations, or energy, industrial, or communications facilities.
Thousands of people in Moscow and other Russian cities took to the streets over the weekend to protest legislation they fear could lead to widespread internet censorship in the country.
The protests, which were some of the biggest protests in the
Russian capital in years, came in response to a bill in parliament that would route all internet traffic through servers in Russia, making virtual private networks (VPNs) ineffective. Critics note that the bill creates an internet firewall similar to
People gathered in a cordoned off Prospekt Sakharova street in Moscow, made speeches on a stage and chanted slogans such as hands off the internet and no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet. The rally gathered around 15,300
people, according to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies. Moscow police put the numbers at 6,500.
President Vladimir Putin has tightened his grip on the Russian Internet by signing two censorship bills into law. One bans fake news while the other makes it illegal to insult public officials.
Russia has never really been a liberal democracy. It
lacks an independent judiciary, and the government has found a variety of techniques to harass and intimidate independent media in the country.
But the new legislation gives the Russian government more direct tools to censor online speech. Under
one bill, individuals can face fines and jail time if they publish material online that shows a clear disrespect for society, the state, the official state symbols of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and bodies
exercising state power. Punishments can be as high as 300,000 rubles ($4,700) and 15 days in jail.
A second bill subjects sites publishing unreliable socially significant information to fines as high as 1.5 million rubles ($23,000).
Russia's media censor Roskomnadzor has threatened to block access to popular VPN-services which allow users to gain access to websites which have been banned by Moscow.
Russia has introduced internet censorship laws, requiring search engines to
delete some results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store users' personal data on servers within the country.
But VPN services can allow users to establish secure internet connections and
reach websites which have been banned or blocked. Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had asked the owners of 10 VPN services to implement the country's registry of banned websites and block access to the specified sites.
internet censor said that it had sent notifications to NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited, giving them a month to reply.
In the cases of non-compliance
with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor has threatened to block the offending VPNs.
Meanwhile a new censorship bill has been introduced to the Russian parliament (Duma) that established the concept of a Russian internet called Runet that can operate independently of the worldwide internet.
Runet is envisaged as a Russian space
that allows state censors to block Russian internet users from access to foreign websites whilst allowing them to continue using local websites approved by the internet censor. It also provides for continued internet access in Russia space should the
rest of the world cut off Russia.
Russia notes the overwhelming majority of the key services running the worldwide internet are under US control. Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said: That's not very good actually.
The legislation was
initially drafted in response to a new US cyber strategy that accuses Russia, along with China, Iran, and North Korea, of using the web to undermine its democracy and economy.
Russia took another step toward government control over the internet on Thursday, as lawmakers approved a bill that will open the door to sweeping censorship.
The legislation is designed to route web traffic through servers controlled by Roskomnadzor,
the state communications censor, increasing its power to control information and block messaging or other applications.
It also provides for Russia to create its own system of domain names that would allow the internet to continue operating within
the country, even if it were cut off from the global web.
The bill is expected to receive final approval before the end of the month. Once signed into law by Putin, the bulk of it will go into effect on Nov. 1.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a measure expands government censorship control over the Russian internet.
The law, signed Wednesday, requires ISPs to install equipment to route Russian internet traffic through servers
in the country. Proponents said it is a defense measure in case the United States or other hostile powers cut off the internet for Russia.
In March, the Russian government's internet censor Roskomnadzor contacted 10 leading VPN providers to demand they comply with local censorship laws or risk being blocked.
Roskomnadzor equired them to hook up to a dedicated government system that
defines a list of websites required to be blocked to Russian internet users.
The VPN providers contacted were ExpressVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, HideMyAss!, TorGuard, Hola VPN, OpenVPN, and Kaspersky Secure Connection. The
deadline has now passed and the only VPN company that has agreed to comply with the new requirements is the Russia-based Kaspersky Secure Connection.
Most other providers on the list have removed their VPN servers from Russia altogether, so asn ot
to be at risk of being asked to hand over information to Russia about their customers.
Back in March, ten major VPN providers including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish and HideMyAss were ordered by Russian authorities to begin blocking sites present in the country's national blacklist. Following almost total non-compliance, the country's
internet censor says that blocking nine of the services is now imminent.
Back in March, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor wrote to ten major VPN providers -- NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection,
HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, and OpenVPN -- ordering them to connect to the database. All teh foreign companies refused to comply.
Only teh Russia based company,Kaspersky Secure Connection, connected to the registry, Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov
informs Interfax .
Russian law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law -- it should be blocked. And it appears that Roscomnadzor is prepared to carry through with its threat. When questioned on the timeline for blocking,
Zharov said that the matter could be closed within a month.
Russia is continuing its pressure on Google to censor political political opinion that the government does not like. Media censor Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Google insisting that it stop promoting banned mass events on YouTube.
particularly didn't like that YouTube channels were using push notifications and other measures to spread information about protests, such as the recent demonstrations objecting to Moscow banning some opposition politicians from running in upcoming
elections. Some users are allegedly receiving these alerts even if they're not subscribed to the channels.
The Russian agency said it would treat continued promotion as interference in the sovereign affairs of the country and consider Google a
hostile influence ostensibly bent on obstructing elections.
Political protests have continued to grow in Russia (the most recent had about 50,000 participants), and they've turned increasingly from the Moscow-specific complaints to general
dissatisfaction with President Putin's anti-democratic policies.
Russia's powerful internal security agency FSB has enlisted the help of the telecommunications, IT and media censor Roskomnadzor to ask a court to block Mailbox and Scryptmail email providers.
It seems that the services failed to register with
the authorities as required by Russian law. Both are marketed as focusing strongly on the privacy segment and offering end-to-end encryption.
News source RBK noted that the process to block the two email providers will in legal terms follow the
model applied to the Telegram messaging service -- adding, however, that imperfections in the blocking system are resulting in Telegram's continued availability in Russia.
On the other hand, some experts argued that it will be easier to block an
email service than a messenger like Telegram. In any case, Russia is preparing to a new law to come into effect on November 1 that will see the deployment of Deep Packet Inspection equipment, which should result in more efficient blocking of services.
Google has paid a fine for failing to block access to certain websites banned in Russia.
Roscomnadzor, the Russian government's internet and media censor, said that Google paid a fine of 700,000 rubles ($10,900) related to the company's refusal to
fully comply with rules imposed under the country's censorship regime.
Search engines are prohibited under Russian law from displaying banned websites in the results shown to users, and companies like Google are asked to adhere to a regularly
updated blacklist maintained by Roscomnadzor.
Google does not fully comply with the blacklist, however, and more than a third of the websites banned in Russia could be found using its search engine, Roscomnadzor said previously.
Russia is no working on increased fines for future transgressions.
Russia has passed a law banning the sale of devices, including smartphones, computers and smart TVs, that are not pre-installed with Russian software. The law will come into force in July 2020.
Proponents of the legislation say it is aimed at
promoting Russian technology and making it easier for people in the country to use the gadgets they buy. But of course the move also enables better surveillance and internet control for the authorities.
Foreign apps will still be allowed for the
moment though as long as there are Russian alternatives installed too.
The legislation was passed by Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday. A complete list of the gadgets affected and the Russian-made software that needs to be
pre-installed will be determined by the government.
Online freedom in Russia is getting worse and worse and the latest laws being considered by the Russian Parliament look set to lead to a further deterioration.
MPs are currently pushing through legislation that would force all computers and mobile
devices sold in Russia to come with a series of pre-installed applications which would pose a massive threat to users online security and privacy.
Now the Russian Duma (lower parliament) is considering a law which it claims would protect Russian
technology against competition from overseas tech companies.
But protectionism is the least of the Russian people's concerns if this law makes it onto the statute books. Compelling devices to come pre-installed with domestic apps offers the Putin
regime a wonderful opportunity to spy on every single Russian internet user and punish those who deviate from its exacting regulations.
Russia has said that it has successfully tested its sovereign internet, a country-wide alternative to the global internet.
RuNet, as the internet service is known , was tested on Monday to ensure the security of its internet infrastructure in case
the country would like to cut itself off from the global internet.
Deputy communications minister Alexei Sokolov said the results of the tests would be presented to President Vladimir Putin, and added that the drills would continue in the future.
Four telecoms operators took part, with 18 different scenarios tested.
Internet rights activists have noted that the measures could tighten censorship and lead to online isolation. Russian authorities also tried to ensure that it was
possible to intercept mobile phone traffic and text messages, Sokolov said.